"Training Day" could not have arrived in theaters at a better time, considering the country's declared war against its nefarious and deadly serious enemies.
It's an undercover cop action thriller that poses many of the questions that coincidentally confront the populace in real life: Are we sheep or are we wolves?
"Training Day" features Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris, a street-hardened undercover cop engaged in the war on drugs. He's answered the question for himself.
"To protect the sheep, you got to catch the wolf," he says, "and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf."
Harris is absolutely convinced that he's the good guy willing to do whatever is necessary to take down the drug dealers, even if it means breaking the law.
Ethan Hawke plays Jake Hoyt, an idealistic, by-the-book policeman who is hoping to join Harris' elite undercover unit in order to advance up the ranks as quickly as possible. Harris gives Hoyt a day in training to prove himself.
And it's a day to remember. Harris tools around in his "office," a customized Monte Carlo that easily blends with the rough and tough streets of Los Angeles, introducing his charge to Harris' version of street justice.
"You've got to hear the street, smell it, taste it," he lectures. So Hoyt follows his leader, reluctantly at first but ever more willing to take his cue from the unorthodox and often illegal actions of his superior.
"Training Days" marks a radical -- and welcome -- departure for Washington, who too often is cast as the soft-spoken archetype of film hero. His Harris is one bad dude, the wolf in search of his prey, all in the name of justice.
Or so it seems for most of the film. But things take an ever-uglier turn, as it becomes clear to Hoyt (and the audience) that Harris has stepped way over the line. His actions and motives are not all that they seem.
"Training Day" is a taut, well-crafted thriller that poses many more questions than the action genre normally can. That makes it worth a look.
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