I’m not quite sure this movie realizes that it’s a neo-noir. At least, director Antoine Fuqua and cinematographer Mauro Fiore shoot the majority of the film in broad, albeit desaturated, daylight so that it certainly seems like that missed that crucial fact.
Indeed, this film is pretty compelling for most of its duration as a morally murky cop drama that would have come to decadent life with more shadowy, canted camerawork and lighting. What could have been a brilliant piece of cinema is instead run-of-the-mill excellent.
Training Day is elevated by an absolutely electric performance by Denzel Washington as an undercover cop blurring the line between dirty-work problem solver and self-serving vigilante (at least until the film’s final act which clarifies matters a little bit).
Ethan Hawke grounds the movie with a more typical heart-of-gold copoganda role, but at least brings some humanity and energy to the table.
The film’s plot takes a pretty drastic turn in the last twenty minutes as moral ambiguities shift into starker black-and-white, and an unexpected international conspiracy comes to the forefront. Honestly, the ending feels like it was grafted on from a very different, worse movie.
Otherwise, though, Training Day is pretty damn thought-provoking and watchable, especially Washington’s terrific turn as Alonzo Harris.
- Review Project: 2009 Top 100
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.