Hero of the Day

by Steven Snyder

Training Day

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

(Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger)

Rated: R


Training Day could have been one of the best films of the year.

As rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) and veteran narcotics officer Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) drive through the inner city, there are moments reminiscent of other great films like Taxi Driver or Apocalypse Now, where the audience is introduced to a world that has been written off by most. In this case, it’s an urban jungle cops wade through, trying to enforce some form of “justice.”

In these places, there is no black and white, no right or wrong. In this world, corruption and justice exist on the same plane. Harris is a cynical cop who has seen too much to live within any rule book. Washington, playing the antithesis of most characters on his resume, brings an edge to Harris worthy of an Oscar nomination. He makes a deal with one drug dealer to catch the bigger dealers. He bribes judges for warrants. He may not do things the right way, but he’s still doing it to the right people.

There are questions raised about street justice, who deserves what, and to what degree. Hoyt is the grounded idealist. He doesn’t drink on the job, use drugs, or want to look the other way when Harris knows there’s bigger fish to fry. Hawke is a perfect foil to Washington’s Harris. He brings an admirable optimism to the part that is slowly chipped away as he succumbs to the world that surrounds him.

And then, just as Training Day‘s intelligence promises a gripping conclusion, the film’s promised destination seems to disappear in the distance.

While it appears as if director Antoine Fuqua intends to question how far Hawke will travel down the road of temptation with Harris, he allows insightful deliberations to give way in a final act of screams and excessive violence.

As a result, Training Day becomes another victim to the majority of audiences, who, without question, prefer soaring action to subtle conflict and gunfights to dialogue.

Thumbs up, without question. But Training Day could have been so much more than it is.

-Steven Snyder

Training Day opens today in theaters nationwide.