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Harvard Schmarvard – Training Day Shows What Happens When Cops Go to the Dark Side

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Do the latest headlines have you wondering in just whose hands you’re entrusting the long arm of the law? However “stupidly” the cop who arrested Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. may have acted last week, he’s got nothing on Denzel Washington’s Alonzo Harris. LAPD narc Alonzo drinks all day long, lets rapists and drug dealers run free, and casually loses $1 million in Vegas to a group of Russian mobsters who expect payment within 24 hours. You know from the first frames of the thrilling Training Day that Alonzo is a cop whose life can only end in a hail of bullets.

But what Alonzo lacks in common sense, he more than makes up in style, swagger, and general overall cool. He’s definitely one of the most charismatic rogue cops in the history of cinema. He can fire two guns at once, wears a black leather jacket and a platinum-and-diamond crucifix, and gets around in a souped-up 1979 Chevy Monte Carlo with wire wheels and hydraulics. Washington won a best actor Oscar for this part and you can see why. It’s not easy to make the devil incarnate come across as the most popular boy in class.

And then there’s that smile.

That “Who, me?” smile appears whenever Alonzo’s in the most trouble, and this movie is seriously worth watching just to see Washington flash his ridiculously pearly whites. He puts the Cheshire cat to shame.

Poor Ethan Hawke though. He plays the rookie cop Jake Hoyt, sent to spend a “training day” with Alonzo to determine whether he has what it takes to be on the LAPD’s narcotics squad. It takes until the end of the movie until the naive Hawke begins to fathom the true depths of Alonzo’s depravity. After that, it’s all about Hawke’s efforts to escape from the dark side.

Sure, Training Day starts to strain credibility towards the end, in part because of its compressed time frame. (We’re really supposed to believe that all this happened in a day!?) But believability isn’t really the goal here anyhow. In the late ’90s, a team of LA cops known as the Rampart Division was arrested and accused of widespread corruption — everything from robbing banks to framing suspects. The scandal that erupted was the inspiration for the movie, and Washington wants you to see and understand who these cops were and what drove them to such extremes. He burrows deep into Alonzo’s demented psyche, showing how a once-good cop can turn bad. It’s more than stupidity that causes this to happen. It’s the allure of evil that none of us can ever fully escape.

Click here for a full schedule of Training Day showings on AMC.

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