Review: Training Day

Business is business in the film, but, in the end, it’s all about who has your back.

Training Day
Photo: Warner Bros.

Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day is a rock-solid Hollywood thriller that traces a corrupt cop’s twisted abuse of the innocent. While Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) isn’t the kind of meaty religious cripple worthy of Ferrara, he’s a roughneck cop who eschews a pathology far more terrifying than that of Harvey Keitel’s bad lieutenant. Fuqua’s gracefully scripted chamber piece delicately traces the business of crime; here, cops (referred to as pigs) and thugs become indistinguishable from one another in the big time game of drugs and money. Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is the rookie: Alonzo’s “bitch” and, ultimately, fall guy. Halfway through Fuqua’s exploitative action yarn, Alonzo is revealed to be more than just an over-aggressive do-gooder—he’s a self-serving criminal who uses his police badge to overpower a ghetto-full of black brothers. While Training Day may feel like Washington’s one-man terror show, the narrative is ironic and succinct. An order of white men (two cops and a DA) toast the fact that a petty criminal successfully convinced a jury of his insanity by shoving peanut butter into his ass cheeks and eating it before his sentencing was announced. Alonzo is cut from the same vein; he feels that if he successfully works the system, he deserves his freedom. By film’s end Alonzo becomes not unlike a piece of stagnant meat thrown into a ghetto coliseum by an empowered Jake and forced to take on the hungry, vengeful brothers he was supposed to protect. Business is business in Training Day, but, in the end, it’s all about who has your back.

 Cast: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Eve Mendes, Charlotte Ayanna, Tom Berenger, Snoop Dogg, Harris Yulin, Raymond J. Barry, Cliff Curtis, Emilio Rivera, Dr. Dre, Macy Gray  Director: Antoine Fuqua  Screenwriter: David Ayer  Distributor: Warner Bros.  Running Time: 120 min  Rating: R  Year: 2001  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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