Tougher love

Denzel Washington is a tragic mentor in Antoine Fuqua’s latest.

A dark knight of the LAPD’s thin, blue line separating the ghetto’s sheep from the felonious wolves next door, Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) is a shady horseman of an urban apocalypse of drugs and its accompanying violence. Alonzo’s darkness is mythical. It possesses a gravity — the force of temptation toward damnation — that barely lets light glint from his jewelry, or the chrome-and waxed-black lacquer of his classic ’70s Monte Carlo that rears up via its hydraulics like the Lone Ranger’s steed Trigger.

But the only triggers in Training Day are on its guns — crime and justice’s main tools of the trade. Even rookie Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke, Hamlet) straps his on before his wristwatch. Hoyt is definitely whiter, though not brighter, than his narcotics training officer Alonzo. He’s a grown-up Opie packing a 9 mm; a former North Hollywood High football star turned crime fighter. But during the disastrous course of his training day, his apple-pie goodness may be the only protection that allows him to go home.

Though Jake is the simple hero with a heart of gold, Training Day is really the tragedy of Alonzo’s megalomaniacal ambition. Washington magnificently plays him like a ghetto Macbeth. Screenwriter David Ayer (The Fast and the Furious) dresses the story up in the wolf’s clothing of a violent-cop plot illustrated with artistic effectiveness by director Antoine Fuqua’s (The Replacement Killers) shades and colors.

At heart though, Training Day is a fairy tale of the ogres that heroes may become when they cross the lines that divide morality, ethics and law so many times that they begin to blur; a fable whose moral is that the truly good and righteous are protected — even after they’ve lost their innocence.

Visit the official Training Day Web site at

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].

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