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"Training Day"

Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Written by David Ayer.
Starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.
Release Year:  2001 

Review Date:  10/17/01 


How good is Denzel Washington?

In "Training Day", he plays an absolute bastard, and it works all the way through.  As narcotics detective Alonzo Harris, he steals from his department, he abuses his authority, he cheats on his wife, and he kills without any hesitation.  Oh, and he regularly points his gun at his new partner, family man Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), in an attempt to teach him what it is like on the dangerous streets of Los Angeles.

The plot is initially pretty simple.  Harris meets up with Hoyt at a local diner and proceeds to show him all the things a good narcotics officer needs to do to survive on the streets...but, it is the kind of training day that Hoyt wasn't expecting when he laced up the shoes in the morning.  Along the way, Hoyt meets other rogue members of Harris' operation, including a cop named Paul (Dr. Dre) and some shady LAPD officials (including a cameo by Tom Berenger) that need Harris to carry out an execution to recover some cash.  Along the way, Hoyt and Harris bust up a couple of street fights, engage in a shootout with some local gang members, and stumble upon famous musicians posing as "actors" (Macy Gray, Snoop Doggy Dogg).

But for 75% of the movie, it is just Washington and Hawke chewing the fat as they drive around LA, and this is where the movie really shines.  Washington is just amazing in this role...he clearly relishes playing the bad guy here and although his lines are not incredibly deep, they resonate in the way that only Denzel can make it happen.  His dirty cop is almost too much of an SOB to be believed...but, for some reason, you do.  The swagger, the dialogue, the fearlessness under fire come out and you are loving it the whole way.  And, for the first time in a long time, I liked Ethan Hawke in a movie.  His character is funny at times, shocked at what he is seeing in others, but really brought the idea of the rookie to life without the normal action/drama film cliches.  This is a long way from "Reality Bites" and some of the other distraught/outsider teen roles that Hawke usually shows up in.

And, much credit should be given to director Antoine Fuqua ("The Replacement Killers") for not turning this into a run-of-the-mill action movie...this flick really concentrates on the actors and they don't get lost in the scenery here.  This one is not perfect, but it is a damned good time.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09