At one time or another, everyone has seen an intense cop movie. It’s a very popular genre not only because of its consistent tension but also the differing messages they can give off. Some are more uplifting with justice overall winning out while others want to completely depress you. When it comes to “Training Day,” you get a bit of both.
The movie focuses on Jake Hoyt, a newly transferred cop attempting to “try out” at becoming an LA narcotics officer. Oh poor Jake. No one knows if he was initially expecting something simple and boring or a little unorthodox but either way, what Jake got was definitely not what he expected.
His mentor for the day is Alonzo Harris who is played brilliantly by Denzel Washington. A very experienced officer, Alonzo comes off initially as unconventional in his teaching methods. Quick to change emotions and asking Jake odd questions at random times, this “teacher” is exceedingly hard to read. But overall you get the idea that Alonzo is a good cop that bends the law a bit to do the right thing (or at least how he sees it).
Now as the film continues, we see Jake thrown into more and more questionable environments where his inexperience coupled with Alonzo’s mysteriousness leads to uncomfortable situations for the rookie. Sure he thinks he can be tough enough to be a narc but this is not what he signed up for. And as we start to see his superior taking people’s money and leaving Jake in the dark, you start to lose the faith.
It all begins to fall apart when Alonzo and his crew backstab his friend Roger and rob him so Zo can pay off the Russians who (unsurprisingly) want to kill him. But it doesn’t stop there as Alonzo tries to have Jake kill Roger before doing it himself. The scene culminates with the rookie being forced to follow the story that the “suspect” shot at them, injuring one of the officers, while he became a hero and stopped him. Jake’s faith in Alonzo is gone at that point.
Or so we think, as he still believes him when Alonzo plans to help him cope with what happened, which leads our hero into a trap. Left to be killed, Jake is able to get out due to a kind act he performed earlier in the film and goes to confront Alonzo. After a brutal fight, Jake has the upper hand but walks away to leave the true criminal alone among some of the most dangerous people in the area. While the Russians are the ones who end up killing him, the symbol of Jake walking away and all of the “friends” of Alonzo turning on him is what leaves the biggest impact.
While Ethan Hawke is good as Jake, Denzel Washington earns that Oscar he received for this performance. He is mesmerizing throughout the movie as you are always drawn to what he is saying. And what makes Alonzo special is that you tend to have faith that he, in the end, is trying to do the right thing. You believe all the crap he says to justify his actions because deep down, you want him to be a good cop. Unfortunately he is not.
Few movies can match the pull and intensity of “Training Day.” It’s not just another cop movie but one that takes what you want the film to be like and flips the idea on its head. Even the end is not truly optimistic or pessimistic. Instead it leaves you exhausted from a terrible first day for this rookie.
+ Danny Reiter is the producer of the Dan Sileo Show and is assigned a new movie to watch and review each week by Dan.