Training Day
*** GM
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Macy Gray, Eva Mendes, Cliff Curtis

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Denzel Washington is an incredible actor. He's style is so smooth, relaxed, charming, affable, and there's always something brewing under the surface. He's consistently watchable and always engaging, and he deserves a Best Actor trophy. It's just too bad it couldn't have come for a better movie.

"Training Day" is a police drama about idealistic rookie Jake (Hawke) being trained by crafty, wily veteran narcotics detective Alonzo (Washington) who's declaring you gotta have a little dirt on ya to survive in undercover work. As the day goes on, we find out more and more about just how much dirt Alonzo's wallowing in and it becomes tougher and tougher to figure out what's a lie and what's the truth.

Trouble here is that Alonzo is the only interesting character in the film. Ethan Hawke, in everthing I've ever watched him in, is just an annoying pasty little twerp. He's not really that aggravating or annoying here, but he's also not really interesting either. Now, I know that's partially because he's playing the straight man to Denzel's crooked man, and therefore he doesn't really have as much opportunity to shine, but he still should make us at least KIND OF want to see the bad guy taken down, and that just doesn't happen. I always wanted Denzel to come out on top, because he's infinitely more interesting.

Of course, the interest starts to wane toward the end of the film, when we find out that most of that imagined complexity we saw in Alonzo was a smokescreen and he turns out just to be a hair-trigger cop out to cover his own ass, and it degenerates into a standard action movie denoument, with Alonzo even singing children's songs to taunt Jake while hunting him down. This serves to make all the complex buildup before this pretty much irrelevant, although it's cool to see Alonzo talk his way out of certain death, even if it's not entirely believable. It's just an unsatisfying way to end what started out as a somewhat intriguing character-driven look at street-level policework.

I've heard there's a sequel in the works. You're not going to center a film around Ethan Hawke and get anyone to watch it. Trust me on that one.

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