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Overall Rating

Awesome: 26.78%
Worth A Look30.05%
Average: 19.67%
Pretty Bad: 12.57%
Total Crap: 10.93%

11 reviews, 117 user ratings

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Training Day
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by Jack Sommersby

"Give Back the Undeserved Oscar, Denzel."
1 stars

A piss-poor cop flick with a limited dramatic arc and heaping helpings of whopping implausibilities.

To get a fair idea of how appallingly stupid the new police thriller Training Day truly is, you need only consider a pivotal scene that occurs late in the film. A narcotics rookie officer of the LAPD, Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), is being held down at gunpoint in a bathtub by a trio of disagreeable Latinos -- a set-up which has been engineered, mind you, by Hoyt's corrupt superior officer, Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), to erase him as a witness to an illegal murder committed just a few scenes back -- when all of a sudden, right before the trigger is pulled, one of them opts to snag Hoyt's wallet before the ensuing bloodbath. The wallet, though, happens not to belong to Hoyt, but to a teenage girl he'd saved from a back-alley rape earlier that day, the same girl who just happens to be the niece of the head baddie who's holding a shotgun to his head. The uncle takes out his cell phone, conveniently gets a hold of his niece right then, and Hoyt's assertion is confirmed that he was indeed the knight and shining armor who came to her rescue. Result: Hoyt is thanked, allowed safe passage out, and stalks out into the night, gun in hand, to do final battle with Harris.

"Suspension of disbelief" is a fundamental necessity for any fictional medium to convince us that the made-up is entirely plausible -- at least according to the specifics of reality presented before us by the fiction-maker. Being that Training Day puports to be a gritty, unflinching expose of the corrupt underbelly of any given metropolitan police force, the scene I've just detailed is simply inexcusable: it insults the living hell out of the audience, expecting us to swallow, without a shred of doubt, a load of trumped-up contrivances that even a sub-par TV cop show'd be too proud to parade in front of unsuspecting eyes. But what really digs the film an even deeper and disgraceful cinematic grave is the majority of scenes preceding it aren't any more plausible by comparison. It's a disgusting, downright repugnant film not only because it squanders the ever-timely topic of police corruption, but that a good deal of American films critics have seen fit to champion it as something even remotely substantial or incisively scathing.

You've been down this tired old road before, believe me. A young, wide-eyed, earnest, principled cop (Hoyt) is quickly corrupted and ethically soiled by a corrupt veteran officer (Harris) who's taken him under his wing. Promotion-eager and career-savvy, Hoyt only thinks he'll do whatever it takes to get the job done, to 'make a difference' out there on the streets. Of course, he's unprepared for the repercussions that come along with it, like the fact that the highly-decorated officer administering his training is inherently no better than the street scum they're combating. Harris has been derived as the grown-up (wised-up?) version of the man Hoyt is (inevitable?) to become, once full of vigor and promise and crusading principle for the better good only to be broken down by the hopelessness of his job and relegated to his basic human nature of selfish greed. But the film doesn't add up that way. In its quest to go the formula route, to give generic popcorn-munchers a strong-willed hero to root for during the ending passages, the film winds up pulling itself apart by abandoning the dark implication that all men are prone to evil, that Hoyt, however stoic and well-meaning at the onset, is as vulnerable to succumbing to selfish temptation and staying at that level as much as the next person, just so a perfunctory showdown between good versus evil can be presented at the end.

It's not enough that the character of Hoyt has been saddled with a loving wife and newborn baby, but in Harris' company is given to hackneyed speeches about wanting "to do some good in the world", which are trite anyway but even more so being that they conjure up memories of Brad Pitt's naive upstate cop David Mills' utterances in David Fincher's serial killer pic Se7en (a masterpiece, by the way). There, Mills was justifiably earmarked as a myopic fool and self-serving patsy, whereas in Training Day, Hoyt represents tainted but ultimately wholesome 'goodness'. There's never any viable tension worked up between Hoyt and Harris because the lines have been so clearly and simplistically drawn up to separate the two not by dramatic complexity but by, like in an old Western, who's wearing the white or black hat -- or, in this case, who's white- or black-skinned. In Mike Figgis' seductively swank Internal Affairs, Richard Gere's corrupt-to-the-bone L.A. cop was pitted against Andy Garcia's unpleasantly determined IA investigator, and the psychological linkage between the two was fascinating to behold in that these master manipulators had finally met their match, their doppelganger. In Training Day, there's no dramatic foliage or gray areas clouding the main issues -- just a lot of ho-hum morality plays targeted at the easily impressionable.

So I'm all the more mystified over how some critics demeaned Training Day for its final-third conventionalities when in fact the whole entire enterprise from start to finish irrefutably reeks of cheapened authenticity. I guess the foolhardy are more than willing to overlook scenes like Harris stopping his car in the middle of a busy intersection and forcing Hoyt -- at gunpoint, in broad daylight -- to smoke a marijuana pipe right in front of several onlookers. Later on, Harris opens up with a couple of chrome-plated handguns at eight to ten armed homeboys in east L.A., and he and Hoyt manage to drive away with only a blasted windshield as a liability. Oh, and you must know that Hoyt, while riding the after-effects of PCP-laced marijuana, not to mention a couple of malt-liquor brewskies afterward, is able to stand up and life-savingly react during that gunfight. Further: the subplot involving Harris' needing to score one million dollars before a payoff deadline (at midnight, of course) for beating a well-connected Russian mafia big-shot to death in Las Vegas over the weekend is the sort of story appendage cooked up by a screenwriter only a mother could love.

The writer in question is David Ayres, who penned the passable WWII adventure yarn U-571, which, truth be told, benefited from director Jonathan Mostow's impressive staging rather than the cliche-ridden script. Ayres reportedly has spent a good many years hanging out with cops, which apparently impressed some dim-witted studio execs into believing this gave him an exclusive on 'the way things are' out there on those mean-a*s streets. As I see it, in coming up with this miserable script, Ayres simply plunked himself down in front of his widescreen TV over a week period, rented numerous cop-themed videos, and concocted a mere compilation of Better Films Past. Training Day isn't possessive of a single original scene, or a halfway-workable one, at that, with false dialogue and phony situations telegraphing each and every plot development several minutes ahead of time. And matching the shallowness of the script is Antoine Fuqua's too-slick direction. With such guilty pleasures as The Replacement Killers and Bait, Fuqua's limited narrative skills were off-set by the sheer plasticity of the stories; but with Training Day, his smooth and mechanically dexterous camera movements and scene transitions rob the film of the hard, nasty edge the subject warrants. Sure, the pacing is swift, and things are hardly ever boring (it was edited by Oscar-winner Conrad Buff), but neither are the scenes given any kind of dramatic weight. Fuqua either overstresses the emotions or glides right over them altogether, which might give the impression that he's being tactful when in fact his method has more surface than contextual value.

While the roles are pretty much unplayable, matters still aren't help by the two lead actors, both of whom are classically miscast. Ethan Hawke is thoroughly unconvincing as the righteous Hoyt, bereft of both physical variety and vocal command. He isn't bad when directed well in supporting parts, like as Ted Danson's resentful but perceptive son in 1989's Dad or the quintessential slacker in 1993's Reality Bites, but when given a hefty part, his severe limitations show, as they do here. As for Denzel Washington, he's certainly racked up the critical raves (and a dubious Oscar win) for his showy performance, but it's more showboating than acting, more presentation than interpretation. While one can argue that his character is a showboater using his considerable charisma and charm to manipulate, there still needs to be the indication of the innerworkings of an actual man underneath. Washington is nothing but exteriors here, expecting his own undeniable charisma to carry the day; instead of bravely burrowing deep down to unearth a three-dimensional, flawed man, all we get is the same self-satisfied Washington snow job -- all well-oiled jive and hot air. Ditto the film.

See 1990's fine "Internal Affairs" instead.

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originally posted: 01/10/03 03:14:01
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User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell good bad cop good cop movie 4 stars
10/30/13 The Big D Stink, Stank, Stunk! Tries so hard to be street tough that it comes off as fakey! 1 stars
11/24/10 Jeff Wilder Standard issue good/bad cop. But Washington's performance alone makes it worth seeing. 4 stars
7/13/09 JR Denzel as evil rabid cop? Ooooo. Oscar...Gimmee Gimmee!! 2 stars
11/09/08 Grant Amazing...Fuck the haters 5 stars
8/19/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White crafty corrupt cop with twisted ending 4 stars
3/03/08 ladavies Denzels's best performance to date. He makes a scary bad guy. 5 stars
5/28/07 Double M King Kong ain't got shit on Denzel.. 5 stars
3/22/07 JJ A film to think about, terrific performances from both lead roles 5 stars
1/01/07 kitfo plot holes and unnecessary fight scene mar what would otherwise be a great film. 4 stars
12/03/06 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good 4 stars
11/15/06 Charles R.L.Power Depressingly stupid, unconvincing -- this got Denzel his Oscar? 1 stars
7/15/06 Anthony G Good film, denzel can play a thug nig pretty well. 4 stars
5/16/06 bmac great movie by the best ever (denzel) period 5 stars
4/13/06 KK it wasn't that bad! 4 stars
10/07/05 Wisamane Only people with good tastes for movies will like this one. I thought it was Incredible 5 stars
8/23/05 ES Fun, nothing you could believe was the real 'mean streets' but a decent flick 4 stars
7/27/05 Indrid Cold This is the electrifying Denzel everybody loves. Plot and other characters are just decent. 4 stars
12/27/04 mjoc Overrated formula film 3 stars
12/09/04 Kristina Williams good movie but I was waiting for it to fucking END! 4 stars
11/19/04 blah fuck off 3 stars
11/19/04 Bobby Lynn one of my favorites 5 stars
9/07/04 Nadine Arango Any 1 from the streets knows this is real 4 anyone who isn't this is the closest you'll get 5 stars
8/03/04 Anthony G spank my ass and call me a bitch 1 stars
4/14/04 Gobsmack Fascinating and brilliant. Denzel deserves 2 Oscars. 5 stars
4/14/04 beem put ya hands on ya chest! 5 stars
4/03/04 R.W. Welch Far-fetched bad cop flick is salvaged by top drawer performances all round. 4 stars
3/30/04 y2mckay Formulaic and contrived at times, but still intense. Denzel was as good as the hype. 4 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Not as good as they say 3 stars
1/21/04 tatum Expert direction, but the film gets tedious and unbelievable as it progresses 3 stars
1/20/04 hjrjkkl Somewhat predictable, but riveting nevertheless. 4 stars
1/08/04 A F Denzel ain't got shit on King Kong. 4 stars
10/02/03 Jinnvisible hollywood found the formula again ? never had it first place..well acted /directed 4 stars
9/22/03 kill quacky i bet you enjoy watching your mom and dad fuck when your under the bed 5 stars
8/19/03 AD liked it but got farfeted 5 stars
7/16/03 Rose Joslin Powerful performance by Denzel Washington, excellent flick! 5 stars
6/26/03 cochese Denzel won an OSCAR for this? Children, can you say "racially motivated", I knew you could. 2 stars
6/01/03 francis Plot deficiencies and I find Mr Hawke unsuitable for this type of role 3 stars
5/27/03 Andrew One of the best movies I've seen in awhile. 5 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Awesome pop movie. Hawke's first non-embarassment, and Denzel was great. 5 stars
5/01/03 Andrew Carden Hawke Is Good, but The Film Is So Far-Fetched and Blah... 2 stars
4/16/03 charlene henderson good movie 5 stars
4/09/03 Ash This movie sucks 1 stars
3/23/03 Dave This is wank. I've seen more convincing performances from the Power Rangers than Denzel. 1 stars
2/13/03 Sean Horan The ending, IMHO, was not justified, but the rest of the movie is definitely worth watching 4 stars
2/08/03 Jake Mikyre The mexicans let him live out of respect...its a known fact 5 stars
2/05/03 Go Denzel Denzel Washington's performance is amazing, and worth renting the movie for. Entertaining. 4 stars
1/23/03 Monster W. Kung A very good thriller, with a somewhat disappointing ending. 4 stars
1/12/03 Goofy Maxwell Alonzo vs. King Kong: Kong made 'em wring their hands, 'Zo makes 'em sh** their pants. 4 stars
12/13/02 and bullshit its a good movie 4 stars
11/07/02 bishop you fuckers wouldn't notice a great movie if it shot you in the ass. 5 stars
11/07/02 The Talking Elbow Fantastic movie of good vs. evil. Ethans char is a poor schmuck with a whole lot of valor. 5 stars
10/23/02 Jim Washington vs. Hawke ... should be an overmatch, but isn't. 4 stars
8/24/02 Sully can't figure out what everyone is complaining about...killer flick, top-notch acting... 5 stars
8/04/02 Edler Thought that I'd hate it, but it was awesome! 5 stars
7/23/02 plop great 5 stars
7/23/02 ! sdjfsdkjf denzel didnt really wreck it... He won an oscar with it........... 4 stars
7/21/02 sdjfsdkjf what a pile of horseshit. Denzel yet again manages to wreck another film. Boooooring! 1 stars
7/10/02 Bada Bing Crosby YAY! He can overact like his white counterparts, lets over-react w/an Oscar? What shite 1 stars
5/20/02 Phil M. Aficiando First 1/3 good; middle average; by the end, a dud, dude. Pointless pap. 2 stars
4/30/02 Phoenix Terrific action entertainment. Denzel was the shit. 5 stars
4/10/02 George Partington Boring, boring, boring. Denzel bad. Ethan good. Even one interesting idea woulda been nice. 2 stars
4/09/02 special K average, nothing new. certainly not oscar-worthy 3 stars
4/08/02 stoolie-bird that jeff lecky dude sums it up perfect.... 2 stars
4/08/02 Jeff Lecky Saw it twice, the 2nd time because I forgot I saw it... nothing special here! 1 stars
4/08/02 lauren mccreight simply a collection of scenes from much better cop movies.....been there done that.... 3 stars
4/07/02 Dave MacDougall nothing new average it hurts... 2 stars
4/03/02 Mo Anand Denzel and Ethan give strong performances, however the story gets a little weird. 4 stars
3/31/02 Film Guy BOOM 5 stars
3/30/02 Butterbean Denzel should have won for MalcomX. He annoyingly overacts here. 3 stars
3/29/02 Denzel Washingotn fan in mourning Denzel should have rejected role and not robbed better amd more important acting of Oscar! 2 stars
3/28/02 Spyguy2 Better than expected, Great DW performance, overkill ending overstayed it's welcome 4 stars
3/27/02 FrayLo word, ...a dark movie, but quite entertaining 5 stars
3/27/02 Incubator It`s all about russians 4 stars
3/27/02 Girl 9 Just awesome 5 stars
3/26/02 Paco My nigga 5 stars
3/26/02 Jessica Davis (fan of Denzel Washington when he's good) Washington's worst role ever - braindead selection over Penn Crowe or Smith. MPAA EATS SHIT 1 stars
3/25/02 Natalie Stonecipher Excellent adtor Denzel Washington really hast be motherfuckin' bad to win an Oscar! 1 stars
3/22/02 The Bomb 69 a bit overrated but the performances were above the storyline 4 stars
3/14/02 Janus the Anus Not terribly original, but well-made. Denzel and Ethan both performed well. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
3/09/02 Ozmy Zuniga Denzel Washington is the man!!!!! 5 stars
3/07/02 Art Wright I can't believe some of the negative comments-this jammie was Fuckin' On! 5 stars
2/17/02 malcolm denzel -- incredible as usual. not your father's cop movie 4 stars
1/20/02 stryper rocks lots of mindless violence 3 stars
1/16/02 David A. Stink, Stank, Stunk!!! 1 stars
1/06/02 The Man Tense, awesome. One of Denzel's best performances. Only end slightly unbelievable 5 stars
12/13/01 Jason Szabo Action packed, with great acting from Washington and Hawke 4 stars
12/12/01 Jimbo Disappointing despite Den's effort. Good cop/Bad cop thing os too predictable. 3 stars
12/07/01 Tanya Predictable and misogynistic - female characters were poorly written props for the men 2 stars
11/17/01 Riza very good!!!! lots of action 5 stars
11/15/01 j man denzel was great 5 stars
11/12/01 Tyrone Knight I loved it!! Denzel's part was electrifying enough to make the movie shine 5 stars
11/11/01 gavel not having seen the movie i already know that this will be avaerage with Denzel striving tr 2 stars
11/10/01 jawsboy pretty fuckin awesome with only a couple of bad scenes. great performances and direction. 4 stars
11/02/01 Gay Tooth Fairy Great fucking acting Denzel. 5 stars
11/01/01 kelly it was good 5 stars
11/01/01 Obi Wan Denzel did his thing as always, but the flick was too predictable and very generic! 3 stars
10/27/01 Fish Eye Denzel is awesome. But the ending was a little forced. Still a good movie though. 4 stars
10/26/01 derek deems not bad, but a few key moments destroy what the film works an hour and a half to build 4 stars
10/23/01 spaceworm A real shame that half way through they welded a plot on this promising character study. 3 stars
10/22/01 Gary Hawkins Compelling peice. Crisply depicted and so so real. 5 stars
10/22/01 Bil Jee Very stupid plot; Denzel over the top. Why would his char expose everything to a newbie? 1 stars
10/18/01 Carlos Mohammed Hard core along the lines of Boyz n' The Hood, New Jack City, and Menace To Society. 5 stars
10/16/01 Del I thought it was good...Denzel was amazing as usual. Snoop Dogg had a surprising role. 4 stars
10/16/01 Jeff Semlow Denzel gives the best performance of the year. He may have been over the top, but still ve 5 stars
10/16/01 malcolm good to see Denzel do something else besides the smooth charmer 4 stars
10/15/01 Schmidty72 The best performance of Denzel's career. 5 stars
10/15/01 Geebo An amazing film. Extremely intense and well-acted by both of the stars. 5 stars
10/14/01 Shaun L Harris Realisticly Unsettling and Intense 5 stars
10/11/01 Eth'mae Not a slow moment. Intense and well acted. 4 stars
10/08/01 Axe Murderer too violent? too weak yowza....go watch spy kids or domething 4 stars
10/06/01 Yowza Too violent, story weak, way too bleak for my liking. Great acting, but still depressing. 2 stars
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  05-Oct-2001 (R)



Directed by
  Antoine Fuqua

Written by
  David Ayer

  Denzel Washington
  Ethan Hawke
  Tom Berenger
  Snoop Dogg
  Dr. Dre
  Scott Glenn

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