Training Day continues to be one of my favorite modern cop films. It smartly balanced entertainment value, social commentary, and genre expectations, with David Ayer’s superb script feeding into director Antoine Fuqua’s muscular visual style, aided by polished yet gritty camerawork from Mauro Fiore, and razor sharp editing courtesy of Conrad Buff. Denzel Washington delivered a massive lead performance as a morally bankrupt and wildly corrupt Los Angeles narcotics officer, with Ethan Hawke providing extremely strong and emotionally engaging support as a relative newbie who is taken under Washington’s volatile wing for a 24 hour period, where literally anything can (and will) happen. Some people complained that Ayer’s highly quotable original screenplay was too contrived, and yes, I’ll submit that much has to happen in a very specific way for the story to arrive at its destination.
But I don’t care about any of that. This is a movie, not real life. And as presented by the creative team, this is a thrillingly cinematic tale of both sides of the law, and I respected how Ayer and Fuqua went for the hot-blooded jugular in all instances. The dynamic ensemble cast added colorful support, with Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nick Chinlund, Peter Greene, Cliff Curtis, Raymond Cruz, Macy Gray, Noel Gugliemi, Harris Yulin, and an especially sultry (and fully nude) Eva Mendes as one of Washington’s various women on the side. Tough and violent but never over the top or too loud for its own good, this is easily one of the very best of Fuqua’s efforts, duking it out with the even more ambitious policier Brooklyn’s Finest for top prize honors.
Review by Nick Clement