What’s worse than a black man that rides on coke, busts bones and wields a gun like a ghetto god? A black cop who does all of that, and enjoys it too, that's what!
Jake Hoyt (Hawke from "Reality Bites") doesn’t get more typecast that this - a freshman cop hot out of cop school who wants to fight crime and deliver justice. A notable character, certainly, but one that is to be field-tested by a personality he’s never known the likes of!
Alonzo Harris (Washington from "Hurricane") is a chief with the LAPD Narcotics squad. For just one day, Hoyt is going to drive the streets with him, learning the language and playing the game. Hoyt needs to please his overseer and prove his mettle before he lands the job he’s been training for. This, then, is Training Day!
Hoyt unwittingly signs up for a crash course in the mechanics of police duty that completely belies anything he’s every learned. Rule number one - "you’ve got to be a wolf to catch the other wolves; sheep don’t survive this game." So, watching Alonzo get about the crime circuit in his own idiosyncratic way, Hoyt begins to wonder if it is really crime he’s fighting, or the legal system itself. Alonzo, with stern masochistic authority, has Hoyt shelving his initial misgivings and giving in to the thoughts and techniques of his boss.
"Training Day" is one of the finer movies I’ve seen in a long time. Shadowing a theme of growing concern - the undercurrent of crime within the police framework itself - it essays, on a deliberately loud canvas, the questionable line of legality that these men of law toe. Overtly brutal and at times downright savage, Washington has put forth one of his best performances. Moving away from his otherwise moral roles, he convincingly drives home a character that is entirely familiar with the underside of crime. Beside him, Hawke looks the rookie he’s portraying, which was probably best for the movie. But even so, his performance as the trainee that battles moral issues with his didactic trainer doesn’t go unnoticed.
The soundtrack is mostly R&B, which may be suggestive of the overriding black cast; incidentally Macy Grey, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre play cameo roles.
There are a number of glitches, but they are so few, and so dwarfed by the otherwise secure script and easy direction, that they go almost unnoticed. The only ethical downside may be the characterization of the 'hood, where the guys with the cornrows are the ones that cause all the damage.
Raw and ruthlessly wildcat, "Training Day" strikes a blow right where it’s aiming.This article was first published on 14 Jan 2002.