I have talked a lot on this blog about some of my favorite movies. But I haven’t often talked about the one thing that’s one of the most important ingredients in a film. No I am not talking about special effects. I am talking about the actors and actresses that bring movie characters to life. While I love a good B-movie from time to time, and can find a lot of enjoyment in that, it is a good performance in a film that I love just so much more. In fact, a memorable role in a film can turn something mediocre into something absolutely extraordinary. It takes a special kind of actor or actress to pull that off. And on that note I do have quite a number of Hollywood greats that are my favorites. One of them is Denzel Washington. I have been following this actor for years now and seen most of his movies. He is known for usually playing the role of a hero, or at the very least a character that has some good traits or redeeming qualities in it. It is all the more ironic that he won an Oscar for a role that has none of these elements in it. To describe the character of Alonzo Harris as a demon made flesh, is not very far of the mark….
Police officer Jake Hoyt is feeling very good. He has a beautiful wife, a lovely baby girl and he has just been assigned to a post where he finally hopes to make detective. In order to do this he has to survive an evaluation by the notorious and decorated narcotics officer Alonzo Harris. Jake is very eager and can’t wait to finally get started on what he expects to be his dreamjob. His first encounter with Harris doesn’t go too well though. Meeting up in a diner, Hoyt finds Alonzo reading a newspaper. As he takes a seat right across from him, trying to introduce himself, Harris tells Hoyt to be quiet as he is reading his paper and the rookie is interrupting his routine. In total disbelief Jake tries to again start up a conversation, which is about the worst thing he could have done. Irritated by these very annoying interruptions, Alonze asks Hoyt to tell him a story as he doesn’t seem to get the peace and quiet he asked for. Jake awkwardly tries to come up with a good tale, but obviously he fails to satisfy his new training officer. This is the start of a day in which Jake will soon find out that not everyone in the police department is there to protect and serve….
Training Day is a movie that I have seen so many times now, and it still manages to impress me with each viewing. The story of the film is not even a very original one. We have seen countless movies about police corruption as it’s a very popular subject. Clint Eastwood had to fight against crooked cops as Dirty Harry in Magnum Force. And a young Al Pacino was on his own in the classic movie Serpico where he was the only good cop in a whole department gone rogue. So it’s not the story here that brings me back to see this film, although admittedly it’s a tense tale, that doesn’t let up and has plenty of twists and turns to keep it exciting. No, what brings this movie to life is one man namely Denzel Washington. When the film first starts, although he has some unorthodox methods, you can still symphatise with Alonzo. Some of the things he says actually make sense, and you are captivated by the charm with which he tells his experiences as a narcotics officer.
But that is only a false sense of calm. Soon you are beginning to get that creepy feeling that something is off and not quite right. Denzel plays Alonzo to perfection and turns his role into an experience that few actors can pull off. Yes, you read that right his role is an experience. The character of Alonzo Harris is a being that is truly and utterly evil. All he cares about is his own well being, and damn anyone who gets in his way. And despite all of that, despite all the hate you feel for him and you truly want to see him die for all the things he has done, you don’t want that to happen. Because you want to see more of Denzel’s Oscar winning performance. In fact I would not have objected to the film being four hours longer if that would have meant seeing more of the scenes like the one below (please note that this clip does contain a couple of F-bombs, so if you are offended by things like that, don’t watch it).
One would almost forget though that there is a perfect counter to the dirty cop, which is officer Jake Hoyt played by Ethan Hawke. Ethan got an Oscar nomination for his role but sadly did not bring home the price. A shame really, because his performance is totally different than his co-actor, but every bit as important. To not only hold out against a juggernaut like Denzel but to almost achieve the same level of acting greatness is something that I have utter respect for. I really love Hoyt. He is a rookie that is caught in an absolutely impossible situation where most people would lose their own integrity. He doesn’t and because of that you really feel and care what happens to him. And you want to see him win. Big time! Training Day is dark, gritty and dirty. It creates an atmosphere that is tense and could even be called claustrophobic at times. It’s not a happy fillm, in fact one could even call it depressive at times. But…in the end though, there is a silver lining and an important lesson as well. This movie is a perfect example of how actors can really make or break a movie. And in this case, if you haven’t caught on yet, they certainly make it. Watch this film if you haven’t already. And if you have…rewatch it. It’s one hell of a good investment of your time.
I give Training Day a 9 out of 10 score.