Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Running Time: 122 mins
Training Day is an American film about a rookie narcotics officer on his first day on the job who is introduced to the murky world of law enforcement deep into gangland territory by an experienced police officer with a suspicious way of going about business.
This is an absolutely enthralling film from start to finish. Expertly crafted with an ingenious screenplay that focuses almost entirely on just two characters (with two fantastic performances), Training Day is full of fascinating drama, intriguing twists, and heart-stopping crime and grit that all come together to make for a striking and engrossing watch at every moment.
Let’s start off by looking at what this film actually is. Not only is it a hard-hitting and gritty look into the world of crime, drugs, gangs and more, but it’s also an impressively intimate and dramatically powerful study of how those on both sides of the law can be corrupted by a world of crime.
It’s a fascinating central theme that’s brilliantly exemplified by the central focus on the relationship between the two main characters, a young rookie on his first day as a narcotics officer (Ethan Hawke), and the brutally battle-hardened man who has fought deep into gangland to stop the spread of drugs (Denzel Washington).
Both Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke are fantastic throughout the whole film. Hawke brings his character’s wide-eyed innocence to the forefront in a clear manner from the start, and is a likable and relatable presence that allows you a window into the film’s world, while Washington is really striking as an unpredictable and often hot-headed, yet clearly knowlegdeable and worldly officer who’s not afraid to go beyond what’s necessarily morally or legally permitted in order to get the job done.
The first act of the film is effectively a long conversation in the car between the two, with Washington introducing Hawke to a world full of threats and horror far beyond anything he has seen in day-to-day police service, and explaining to him how an officer has to act completely differently to how he may have previously learnt in order to integrate with the community where most of these crimes take place.
The dialogue throughout the first act is riveting and well-written at every moment, offering not only an excellent exposition phase for the rest of the film, but also proving a really impressive use of simple dialogue over any sort of action or fast-paced thrills to establish a sense of unprecedented danger for Hawke’s character, and the mystery that surrounds just how bad this world of crime really is makes for a very powerful and riveting central focus.
What makes Training Day even better, however, is that it evolves and develops significantly over the course of its story, with a slow-burn thriller beginning to rise from the centre of the drama about half of the way through, as things start to turn towards a focus that you really don’t see coming early on.
In that, the film is not only an enthralling, well-written and measured drama from the beginning, but it’s also full of fast-paced and unpredictable thrills that are both fantastically exciting and make you think as well come the end, and thanks to two stunning performances and a well-directed and strikingly dark and gritty atmosphere throughout, Training Day really is worth the watch at every moment, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2.