“If you move I’m gonna smack the taste from your mouth!” says Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), as he takes drugs off some college kids in the recent release “Training Day.”
The film is a force of adrenaline from start to finish as Harris teaches young Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) the ways of the streets.
The ghetto of Los Angeles (the eastern and southern ‘hoods collectively that are affectionately called the “Heart of Darkness” after the Joseph Conrad novel that inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”) ain’t pretty and the movie depicts that in the imagery.
In the movie, a fourteen-year-old girl is nearly raped by two scum-of-the-Earth crackheads. While the police usually don’t arrive just in the nick of time as they did in the movie, it is entertaining to see how the character of Detective Harris handles the situation.
Harris is the veteran who has seen everything the streets have to offer, while Hoyt is the archetypal rookie who has yet to cut his teeth. Hoyt is young and idealistic, with his head still ringing with words like “duty” and “honor.”
Harris is quick to tell him to, “Forget all that police academy s***. It will get you killed. I’ve seen it happen.”
Hoyt soon learns that Harris has been on the streets for too long, and in many ways has become what he has been trained to stop.
The streets in the film are presented as grim and remorseless and the old axiom, “It ain’t what you know that counts, it’s what you can prove,” is proven time and again as the reel rolls on.
The streets have no mercy or conscience, only a will to survive. Nobody has it easy, and no one will give anyone else an easy time.
In the so-called “Heart of Darkness,” when you look at someone directly the most common reply is, “What the f*** are you looking at?” which Hoyt hears more than once.
Everyone must look over their shoulder and make as few mistakes as possible. That is tough to do, for showing any weakness is the biggest mistake as Hoyt quickly learns. One learns quickly to mind their own business, to keep their mouth shut, and to have their piece ready at all times. These are the three best things to make sure that you do in the cold, hard, uncaring streets.
Even the handicapped are not exempt as we see the wheel chair bound Sammy (as played by Snoop Doggy Dogg, who is the star of another film this week, the gangsta-horror flick, “Bones”) gagged with a ink pen and out come 10 crack rocks. Harris asks Hoyt, “Do you wanna collect the evidence?”
Though the story line and setting are anything but bright, the acting was. Washington gives the audience a great performance charged with emotion. He plays a great veteran cop who gives a young rookie a hands-on education in the ins and outs of narcotics police work.
Only Hawke overshadows Washington, as his acting was the perfect depiction of a young cop who isn’t really sure about what to do and how to act in certain situations. He reacts like a member of the audience would if they were suddenly put into the on-screen situations.
That awkwardness is exactly what was needed to fill that role.
Great acting and grim bleak realism under the direction of Antoine Fuqua give this film the right stuff. I’ll only take one rock out of five from them.