Training Day

on October 05, 2001 by Barbara Goslawski
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   Antoine Fuqua's "Training Day" is an intense yet frustrating study of the notion of street justice. Fuqua ("The Replacement Killers"), working with David Ayer's script, uncovers the fine line between undercover police tactics and corruption, but is otherwise unable to present any further scrutiny--leaving the film and its actors coasting on a shallow plane.

   "Training Day" follows idealistic rookie Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) through his first day as an undercover narcotics squad officer. He's being trained by the head of the division himself, veteran Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), a man of few words, and a formidable presence. The initial training scenes are quite funny, with Alonzo relishing his superiority and indulging his gruff demeanor to play mind games with his rookie. Alonzo likes to be blunt both in what he says and what he does, but eventually his actions become inexplicably unnerving.

   The problem arises when the elements of the story switch over into mind-boggling extremism. Alonzo's wicked plans unfurl abruptly, without a carefully constructed intensification. Alonzo's character exists to represent an idea, to make a point, and subtlety is not often included in such an equation. Had Alonzo's character been less bipolar--the crazed bully and the teasing jokester--the tension building between the two main characters would have been electrifying. The same could be said for the film itself--eventually it just rises to the level of a yell and remains there.

   Jake, on the other hand, spends most of the film in a state of distrust and disbelief--one that the audience is meant to share. This is the most interesting aspect of the film, the confusion between duty and morality, but Fuqua cannot surpass the script's superficiality. In a film that introduces such potentially powerful situations, its level of predictability and its misuse of its talented cast is simply disappointing. Starring Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Snoop Dogg and Macy Gray. Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Written by David Ayer. Produced by Jeffrey Silver and Bobby Newmyer. A Warner Bros. release. Drama. Rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity. Running time: 116 min

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