'Training Day': THR's 2001 Review
After festival screenings in September 2001, Antoine Fuqua's thriller Training Day debuted a month later in wide release to critical acclaim, eventually nabbing more than $100 million in worldwide receipts and a best actor Oscar for Denzel Washington. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
In a notable departure from playing all those virtuous types, Denzel Washington ventures into the dark side as a seriously corrupt narcotics cop in Training Day, and the results are electrifying.
So is the picture, thanks to taut, sinewy direction by Antoine Fuqua and a compelling script by David Ayer (The Fast and the Furious). A sterling example of how to cover familiar territory -- the old pairing of the cop-on-the-take with the by-the-book rookie (effectively played by Ethan Hawke) -- and make it crackle with vitality, the gritty drama should make Warner Bros.' day.
Following high-profile festival screenings in Venice and Toronto, Training Day should arrive on the fall scene with enough sturdy word-of-mouth to emerge as one of the season's stronger performers.
Sort of a flip on 1988's Colors, which had Robert Duvall as the old-school vet and Sean Penn as the rookie with the short fuse, the 2001 version is again set amidst L.A.'s meaner streets, but the roles have been reversed.
Here we find fresh-faced, idealistic LAPD beat cop Jake Hoyt (Hawke) greeting the morning with considerable anxiety. He has just one day to prove that he's got the right stuff to be part of an elite narcotics team headed by Detective Sgt. Alonzo Harris (Washington).
A 13-year narc vet who has been in the job at least several years too long, Alonzo is one tough mother of a taskmaster with a steel-trap mind who's determined to up Hoyt's street IQ.
"You have to decide if you're a sheep or a wolf, if you want to go to the grave or if you want to go home," Harris taunts.
But as the day progresses, Hoyt isn't liking what he's seeing. It's becoming clear to him that Alonzo is a double-dealing, shrewd manipulator who has irreparably smudged the good guy/bad guy boundaries.
With Hoyt's conviction being tested at every turn, the young recruit slowly comes to realize that his so-called test is looking a lot more like a good old-fashioned setup.
Given the commanding depth charge of Washington's performance (he also seems to be having the time of his life), Hawke manages to more than hold his own as the ethically conflicted Hoyt.
While the two steal most of the film's focus, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger and recording stars Dr. Dre, Macy Gray and Snoop Dogg provide some colorful support.
For action director Fuqua (The Replacement Killers), Training Day represents a personal best. Dispensing with the kind of restless camera movements and flashy editing that have come to typify the genre, Fuqua keeps it grippingly real.
Ayer, meanwhile, demonstrates a keen knack for reinvigorating well-worn material.
Tech support is equally gratifying. Mauro Fiore's lenswork has a nice noir grit, Conrad Buff's cutting never attempts to scene-steal, and composer Mark Mancina ratchets everything up with one ticking time bomb of a percussive score. — Michael Rechtshaffen