While Antoine Fuqua may have graduated from the Michael Bay school of directing, “Training Day” proves a well made if somewhat derivative cop drama.
While Ethan Hawke gives his best performance in a LONG time as the innocent white boy cop, its Washington finally playing ‘dark mentor turned dangerous rogue’ which is riveting as he’s made his name over the last few years in straight-laced hero roles – its great to see him playing against type in this vaguely Faustian tale where he leads his rookie partner into darker and darker territory.
Washington’s performance is worthy of a nomination at awards shows next year – he’s dark, quick-witted, dangerous, intelligent and above all very well fleshed out – its a great role for any actor to land and he handles it with a deft touch. Scott Glenn also puts in a likeable turn as an old friend of Washington’s, Tom Berenger’s cameo seems almost forgettable, and the rest of the cast does a pretty good job in what is basically Denzel’s movie.
The fault lies in script not unexpectedly, and more importantly story. Much care has been made to give the various environments and characters a very urban and real (albeit violent) feel – this is dark stuff and it doesn’t hesitate to pull any punches.
Nevertheless the actual plot itself doesn’t add up to much – for the first hour its more of a misjointed series of segments clumped together, and while some (such as Glenn’s first visit) are worked back into the plot decently, others such as the ‘attempted rape’ scene are setup merely to provide us with one of the more unbelievable coincidences I’ve seen in any movie this year (not a good thing to say in a film struggling to be realistic).
The third act also slips into numb-knuckle brutality and a rather predictable Hollywood climax, nevertheless for a good portion of it TD is quite a refreshing and interesting drama.