Director: Antoine Fuqua
Antoine Fuqua came from directing music videos to creating one of the hardest hitting crime dramas of the new millennium …and he’s done almost nothing good since. Southpaw for sure, but that’s about it, and even that it forgettable, as has become Fuqua’s filmography after a very promising start. Training Day was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Actor and Best Supporting, and Denzel won, which tells you all you need to know about this excellent movie; it is dominated by the two leading men, and they are both quite brilliant. In fact, this performance is known as Denzel’s best, or at least one of his very best, since his illustrious career has been so spectacular: Glory, Philadelphia, Crimson Tide, Remember the Titans, Man on Fire, Fences. He puts on a showcase here, but is bolstered by a fine film with special features around every corner, resulting in something pretty monumental.
Young LAPD officer Jake Hoyt reports for his new assignment with narcotics detective Alonzo Harris, a decorated veteran who runs a squad of five men who keep the streets clean by becoming denizens of the dark themselves. It’s not angelic, but it’s effective, and Alonzo quickly sees the spark within Jake to do some actual good, perhaps by getting his hands a little dirty. For Jake, the initiation quickly maxes out his tolerance for violence and for bending the rules, even though he can see that there might be some method to Alonzo’s madness. Over the course of one fateful day, the new duo will have to navigate the city’s underbelly, as well as each other’s personalities, as they toe the line of morality.
I made it sound like they were into all that trouble together; Alonso is the one willing to bribe, abuse, lie, and kill to get what he wants, which he claims is taking down the big fish, ignoring the little ones that don’t do as much harm. Jake is having more trouble accepting that “reality”, especially on his first day on the job. That’s what makes this film so interesting, the dynamic between these two men, and the sides they represent. The movie turns out to be much more violent and action-packed, but that’s only awesome once the groundwork has been laid, and Faqua lays it out very well. The music, the machismo, the city, the conversations; this is a big moment in cinema, a stamp on the year and on the genre that will never be rubbed away. Hawke & Washington are great, but the cameos work well too, in a way cameos seldom do: Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Cliff Curtis, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray, Eva Mendes, Terry Crews. Training Day is an all-around icon with a masterful and memorable performance from Denzel, a film that rocks, rolls, and delivers with power.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆