February 22, 2020
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Training Day

Hardboiled Hollywood at its best, searching for an innovative ending. In vain.

Training Day
Training Day
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rating: ***

Sissy Indian audiences are advised to stay out—this is hardboiled Hollywood at its best. The story reads more like a process—detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) takes Jake (Ethan Hawke), his rookie partner, on a training day schedule in downtown LA. Jake is as far as an idealist can get in today's world—he has a wife, kid and the regular what is good/bad sense.

Harris makes him dope, flout rules, stretch morals and test nerves. Despite being suspicious of his black superior's motives, Jake goes along with the game. For him it is a rite of passage—the mean streets, which suddenly explode with violence, the narrow lanes where rape is always round the corner, the deceptive rooms where 'innocent' men and women turn up, suddenly, with a death wish.

This hideous, fascinating world passes by Jake in a haze. Director Antoine Fuqua creates a cinematic metaphor out of his protagonist's 'high' mental state by making scenes fly past, as if in a dream. This gives a lyrical edge to the hardboiled content. Film stock manipulation allows him to maintain a greenish/grey hue, which sustains the feeling of moral ambiguity.

Harris holds the moral/philosophical core, with his theory of being the 'wolves among the wolves'. Jake wakes rudely from the dream when it is too late—Harris has crossed the Dirty Harry line of using bad means for a good cause. Exploiting the support of his superiors, he is trading his badge to follow a ruthless and self-righteous policy of corruption.

Training Day, in this sense, goes beyond usual stories of official vice. It describes the twisted, tempting depravity of a normal man who otherwise might have been a leader of men. Washington gives some kind of a lifetime performance here—he is cold, menacing, charming and big brotherly, calmly handing over his friends, if need be, to death. It actually looks as if the actor is exploring his dark side in the character. Hawke, on the other hand, is perfectly gawky and junior-like, quite a greenhorn who learns things the hard way.

With actors like these, the movie could have been a masterpiece if it wasn't for a catch. After taking you on a gritty hell ride, the story has problems throwing up a heavyweight ending. It searches for something innovative—you can see the director fudging for a lead—and comes up with a tame compromise.

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