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Review: Training Day

August 21, 2011

It seems about time for me to do a movie review, after two game reviews in a row. And what better time than towards the end of the month, so that I can take it off the list of “shit that needs doing”.

So. Training Day. Ethan Hawke plays Jake Hoyt, a young cop with the LAPD. He’s scheduled to be evaluated to work in narcotics with Alonzo Harris, played by Denzel Washington in a departure from his normal roles. Hoyt meets Harris in a coffee shop, and from there they go to the “office”, a modified ’79 Chevy Monte Carlo. Harris convinces Hoyt to tell him the real reason he wants in to narcotics, which is to make detective. They head to a park where they see one of Alonzo’s informants dealing in the park, and instead of arresting the buyers he simply confiscates the drugs. He forces Jake to smoke one of the joints, not telling him it was laced with PCP.

On their way to a dealer’s home, Jake spots two thugs assaulting a teenage girl, whose cousin happens to be a Mexican gangster. They go to the dealer’s home with a faked search warrant so Alonzo can steal his drug money. They stop at LA’s notorious Baldwin Village neighborhood to visit Alonzo’s girlfriend and young son, and then proceed to a meeting with the “Three Wise Men”, high-ranking members of the LAPD and LA justice system. They tell Alonzo that they know about his debt, and he gets approval from them to “cash in on an account”, giving them the confiscated drug money in exchange for an arrest warrant. Jake and Alonzo head to a nearby car park to meet up with several other narcotics officers and gear up for a raid.

Alonzo drives them out to the home of Roger, one of his informants/drug dealers. They…well, let’s face facts here, they flat out steal millions of dollars from a cache under his kitchen floor and shoot him, making it look like he was killed resisting arrest. Alonzo heads to the home of the aforementioned Mexican gangster, abandoning Jake there while going to pay off his debt, which Jake learns from the gangster was a million dollars owed to the Mafiya for offing one of their couriers in Las Vegas. Jake tries to get away, only to have the gang beat him in the bathroom until the leader finds his cousin’s wallet on him. He calls the girl, who confirms that Jake saved her earlier in the day. The gangsters let him go, asking for no hard feelings as the beating was “just business”.

Jake follows Alonzo back to Baldwin Village, where they get into a fistfight. Jake comes out on top, and the residents and local gang members crowd around, watching. Alonzo offers a reward to anyone willing to shoot Jake, and they all effectively tell him to handle his own dirty work. The people keep Alonzo at bay as Jake walks off with the million dollars and his badge, and Alonzo heads for the airport, but is caught and cut down by Mafiya hitmen. Jake turns in the money and heads home, with the radio reporting that Alonzo was killed honorably while serving a high-risk warrant near LAX.

It may not seem like it the way I described it, but this movie has a lot of action in it. There’s a lot of driving, but it always leads up to something. The fight scenes are well done, Denzel Washington comes off intimidating playing against type (in a role that appears to have inspired Samuel L. Jackson as Officer Tenpenny in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas), and Ethan Hawke plays the straight cop role perfectly, plus cameos by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, and Macy Gray, and brilliant direction by Antoine Fuqua (who secured some of the most infamous neighborhoods in Los Angeles and genuine gang members) makes this movie one of the greats.

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