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Great Movie!, 21 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Training Day" tells the story of young cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) assigned to Narcotics, partnering veteran cop Alonzo Harris (Washington) on his first day. As he tries to improve Hoyt's "street IQ", Alonzo appears to push the boundaries of what is acceptable policing to their absolute limits, forcing Hoyt to question both his own motives and those of his superior. The film is all about asking yourself one question: how far would you go in order to do the right thing? And without trying to sound righteous, this is a question that all of us must ask ourselves from time to time. Do I do the right thing and refuse or capitulate and go with the flow? It is this theme of morality that lifts "Training Day" beyond the mire of most cop movies. The other huge bonus is the performance of the two leads - both Washington and Hawke are brilliant, utterly compelling and believable in their respective roles. However, I think that the Oscar went to Washington for two reasons. One: he is playing totally against type. Washington isn't known for playing characters with a prominent dark side, let's be honest. Two: Russell Crowe didn't deserve a second Oscar after "Gladiator". Hawke, I feel, was probably a little peeved at not getting as much recognition as this is easily the best film I've seen him in. But Washington is at his scene-stealing best, especially towards the end. Most other actors only appear for short periods of time (Dr Dre, Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg, etc) and don't really contribute that much.

Unlike most other cop movies, "Training Day" feels a much more realistic picture than others in its stable. LA isn't the playground of the rich and famous that we expect in the movies - it's a scorching hot-bed of drugs, gang violence and simmering racial tension. And it looks great. This is a wonderfully shot film, drawing you into it's shady suburbs. For the first time in years, Los Angeles looks and feels like a real city and not just a main street full of skyscrapers. For all it's accuracy, I confess that some of the "hood" dialogue lost me (I'm a pasty white boy, can't help it!) and this marred the ending slightly, which did feel slightly contrived and hurried to fit the time frame. What it did do was leave me wanting more and I haven't seen a film in a while that left me like that.