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Training Day

Starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke
Screenplay by David Ayer
Directed by Antoine Fuqua

IN SHORT: Brutal cop drama with killer perfs from both stars. [Rated R for brutal violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity. 123 minutes]

There are important things to be learned from the events of the historical past. The real heroes, as has been written and spoken to no end, are the guys in uniform. Here then, a movie about the guys in uniforms so deep undercover that they don't wear 'em. Don't go to line ups. Don't do anything by the book. Prepared to go right up to the line, if not over, are the elite detectives of the LAPD anti-narcotics team, led by 13-year Detective Sergeant Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). The newest recruit to his team Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) wants in because his eyes are open. All the men that survive one day undercover go on to very successful careers in the department. Fame and Fortune and Big Houses -- Jake has been married for a year and already has a nine month old baby -- and everything that goes with it.

Day One is not anything like any sane person could expect, with rousts of a wheelchair bound crack dealer (Snoop Dogg) and introductions to all the "refined," close to retirement snitches (Scott Glenn). We'll leave the details out since they help lay down the buddy-buddy links that movies like Training Day depend upon and move on to the most important twist in the story. It's been spilled in the teevee spot but, in case you haven't seen it we've spoilered it below. Swipe your cursor over the white area to discover that the unit is successful not only because it has the highest bust rate in the city, it also has sticky fingers for cash and merchandise which lubricate its operations. And the boys are not afraid to let loose with the buckshot, if necessary. Legal or not.

Denzel Washington pushes his charming ways to their absolute limit as Sgt. Harris. Alternately tough and/or party animal friendly, his character's moral code is very simple: "If you're going to protect the sheep, you've got to think like a wolf." Harris is King in East Los Angeles, on the streets where a white rookie dare not walk alone. That doesn't protect him in Las Vegas, where the Russian mob is out for blood, in a running substory.

Training Day film establishes its street creds early, with the usual torrent of obscenity spewing rap music and foul mouthings from our Number One detective, but that slows down as the film moves on to fulfill its quota of violence and blood. That fist to the face material gets a wee bit intense and moreso as you near the end. Just as you'd expect.

While we can report that both stars, Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke delivered great performances, we noted that virtually every African-American in that audience (and our screening was 98% A-A) walked out of the screening with their jaws locked tight. It all comes down to this: Denzel Washington is a hero. An icon. Almost to a person, not a single African-American was happy seeing the man playing a character with this particular drift.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Training Day, he would have paid . . .


dateflick level, with warnings about violence and hard core rap for those who don't consider it music. Like us. The positives are that both headliners are really good. Training Day gets a bit too bloody for our old tastes, nothing that a quick blink can't take care of, and would get a definite positive nod as a gritty, urban drama. But Denzel isn't an icon to us. His audience was not happy. Adjust your parameters.

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