It's gotta be hard to be a cop in L.A. Outright danger nestles alongside abuses of power, corruption, and the like. Training Day takes this moral ambiguity as its starting point. Denzel Washington puts in a powerhouse performance as Alonzo Harris. He's a flashy veteran cop who dresses like a rap executive and hustles the street like a gangster. Harris gets assigned to an ambitious rookie (Ethan Hawke), and a few hours later the poor kid is smoking marijuana and PCP—under the barrel of Harris's gun. It's one of many rough introductions to the even rougher streets they patrol. Washington shines in the role of dubious tutor—he's sharp-witted, aggressive, and calculating. Equally important, he's having fun. This is a rare chance for Washington to play a bad guy, and he delights in creating palpable tension.
It's a testament to Hawke's maturity as an actor that he holds his own with Washington, even as his character falls in over his head. Training Day's conclusion isn't as bold as the hour before it, but solid, sensible direction makes the film worthwhile. And there's a bonus: Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg, and Dr.Dre turn in juicy cameos.
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