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Movie Review

Training Day

MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity

Reviewed by: Carole McDonnell

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action Drama
2 hr. 2 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 5, 2001 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Brothers Pictures click photos to ENLARGE
Relevant Issues
Denzel Washington in “Training Day”

How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

illegal drug use / narcotics

corrupt cop / policeman


liar / lieing


husband and wife relationship


police brutality


mentor protégé relationship


Featuring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Tom Berenger, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Producer: Jeffrey Silver, Bobby Newmyer, Robert Newmyer, Robert F. Newmyer
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

“The only thing more dangerous than the line being crossed, is the cop who will cross it.”

Here are a few questions for you… Do you believe that sometimes we must fight fire with fire? Is the world made up only of sheep and wolves? What happens to an idealist who gives up on his ideals?

Ethan Hawke in “Training Day”

In “Training Day”, Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is a rookie who wants to make detective. In order to become a detective, he has to do a tour of duty as a narcotic cop in the evil streets of Los Angeles. His trainer for the day is king of the streets cop, Alonzo, played by Denzel Washington. Alonzo divides the world into the sheep and the wolves. In fact, along with graphic racial and sexual street-talk, Alonzo uses a lot of metaphorical Christian language. For instance, he calls the streets of Los Angeles, “The World.” Alonzo is nothing if not a wolf. With tears in his eyes, he recalls his days—or was it a week—as an idealist rookie cop. He was once a sheep… but no longer. In “Training Day”, there is no metaphor for a strong sheep.

“Training Day” is like a nightmare road picture. In this case, one is trapped in a car with a mentor who has lost his bearings. Oh, every once in a while, we see—or think we see—something that looks like the old idealist Alonzo of days gone by. He brings food and other items for the relatives of prison inmates, for instance. But is this heart-felt or the kind of manipulative goodness that oozes out of bad people? And how is Hoyt going to get out of this car alive with his integrity? it’s clearly a case of either/or. Integrity and life don’t go well together… especially if one has no one on one’s team.

The world is male, violent, ethnic and debauched. Feminism, by the way, hasn’t reached this world. The women, seductive, maternal or virginal, are mostly all sheep. The men are buffed and wolfish. (Perhaps that’s all prison is good for, helping these guys keep in shape.) it’s a feral world out there. Yet, for all the cursing and violence, this is a religious movie because it is essentially about temptation. Every once in a while something spiritual comes through. Witness the shower curtain with the picture of Jesus on it. Alonzo has spent his time leaning on his own understanding and is therefore always giving sermons about the ways of the World. The movie tells us how hard it is to keep one’s integrity. Perhaps it tells us that discernment is a hard-won spiritual gift. Sometimes the gift of discernment is earned only when one has been nearly fooled. And Hoyt is fooled and manipulated many times. Alonzo threatens, preaches, stirs to action… all in the name of Justice. Each time, Hoyt gets deeper and deeper into Alonzo’s machinations, the more complex the “appearance of evil.” As Alonzo so often preaches, “it’s not what is true that matters, it’s what the evidence says.”

The funny thing about this movie is that it is so very hard to hate Alonzo. Either Denzel Washington’s intensity makes him the defacto hero of the film or we just identify with the villain more in this story. As in many male-bonding pictures where the bad mentor and the good idealistic newcomer must work together, the question is: “Who will change whom?” When was the last time we saw a bad guy actually become “saved” by his good partner? I can only remember two movies in which a bad guy was saved: “The Bad Lieutenant” and “A Prayer for the Dying.” Nowadays, bad guys no longer get saved anymore. They just get blown away. Even though we suspect he might end badly, we don’t want to see our failed hero get his come-uppance. We can see that he was good once. When he looks at Hoyt, we can see that he sees his old self. What we have to contend with is a bad example who is an embittered world-weary idealist. In addition, unlike other films of this kind, “White Heat” for instance, there is no “good” example for poor Hoyt to look up to. he’s out there in the World, all by himself. Idealism, like Christianity, sometimes stays perfect only because it has been untested. One wonders how things actually work in the real World. How many Christians, for instance, have fought fire with fire, and learned to be a lot like their more worldly counterparts in their own training day? In this film, the idealist gets tested but doesn’t entirely fall. The sheep manages to keep his integrity… with the help of a wolf or two.

I liked “Training Day”. It was almost like a worst case scenario for Christians. It reminded of Psalms 73 and 37. It showed us how good people can become bad when we lean unto our own understanding and are overwhelmed by the evils in the world. One definitely got the feeling during the entire film that Alonzo was a good cop gone bad. Most Christians, however, will be too turned off by the violence and the graphic language to see the heart of this movie.

Therefore, I do not recommend “Training Day” for those Christians. Nor do I recommended it to teenagers who might not realize how bad a character Alonzo really is. Unfortunately, bad guys are hipper and more imitated that most movie good guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if some children walk out of the theater imitating Alonzo’s attitude and language. Be forewarned.

Viewer Comments
Positive—Training Day is most certainly not for the weak of heart or mind. …This movie is an incredible eye-opener, a graphic look into the inner-city life. At sometime in life, everyone should be made aware of how other people need to live. If you don’t know yet, rent this movie. It is certainly not one you want to watch more than once, and it is not a feel-good movie. Do not expect to come out of this feeling warm and fuzzy inside. But you will certainly be more conscious of your blessings. Think hard about whether or not you are ready for Training Day.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 5]
—Jesse Carter, age 15
Positive—…doesn’t show ANY non-marital sex or imply it (even tho it does show one person nude). And the atmosphere/setting of that city’s area wouldn’t be properly represented without any swearing. The same goes for the violence and the manipulations taking place… (by the end of the movie), non-Christians realize that any type of evil lifestyle is easy to fall into without having integrity from the heart. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t state that the only way that can happen is if we allow Jesus control of our whole lives and get help from fellow Christians… if yer going to waste His time and money for the purpose of being entertained, then this is one of Hollywood’s better movies to attend. The only reason it would be good to attend this movie (or rent it), is if your heart+mind+body intention is share Jesus and His ways from this movie with non-Christian friends who are also going… otherwise don’t GO!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
—Trevor Jeremiah Friesen, age 29
Neutral—I usually never see a movie without checking this site first. Unfortunately, I had to see this one “Blind”. Even though I thought I was prepared and braced myself for the inevitable profanity and violence, my guard was not strong enough for what came out of this film. The story was very well put together, and it was only in the ending parts did many of the scenes in the beginning start to make sense—pay attention! Having lived in Los Angeles through my High School years, and having been to the “Jungle” several times, my heart was practically broken by viewing the scenes of daily life that exist there, especially for the children. This movie could have been made with less violent scenes, and definitely less profanity! The nude scene was TOTALLY unnecessary! This is NOT a movie for anyone with a tender ear, and most certainly not for anyone under 18!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
—E. Noel, age 32
Negative—The morality play angle, where Hawke’s character has to choose to walk away from evil, is worthwhile. But the film as a whole? No way. The very negative portrayal of the police is a bad idea any time and especially bad in the wake of 9/11/01 when we need unity. Of course Narcs have to “fit in” to the street in order to do their work, but they don’t have to become murderers! And Alonzo has a whole NETWORK of crooked cops and paid-off street folks. Although there are a few scenes where the street folks refuse to do Alonzo’s bidding, the overall thrust is a black eye on law enforcement. The film is way too vulgar to be ordinary entertainment, and too dangerous if taken seriously.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
Brett Willis, age 51
Negative—This film is about a “vigilante” cop in LA that walks “both” sides of the law and this costs him very dearly in the end. This movie is a real emotional downer. Other than taking my time and money I really could not ascribe much value to the film. I find difficult to believe that people actually live like this. If you must see this picture go but don’t take anyone under 25 that is not yet emotionally mature yet. The cinematography is decent and you will be entertained but then again you’ll be entertained if you go bowling or the like, without the emotional downer. None of us need any more exposure to Lucifer’s kingdom than we get on a daily basis.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
—Bob Clark, age 38
Negative—This movie has many problems. I came out of the theater with 2 questions. 1) How can an actor like Denzel Washington who has starred in such wonderful films like “Cry Freedom” and “Remember the Titans” make a movie like “Training Day” that is so offensive? No child should see a movie of this sort. The second and more important question/disturbance was how every “bad guy” was wearing a cross on his neck and every “crack house” was covered in crosses and Christ and crucifixion pictures on the walls. Today’s society has so radically insulted the cross and Jesus’ death upon it. Sadly however, it is my intuition that the horrible drug filled and corrupted society portrayed here is not far off from the society that we actually live in. I’m not happy that I saw this film. I had no idea what I was seeing. I probably should have walked out. From now on, I’m going to screen the movies I go to. I recommend others to avoid it also. Filled with profanity, drug scenes, extreme violence, nudity, rape, and blasphemy. Parents please keep your kids away from this one.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 2]
—Nick Johnson, age 23
Positive—…very brutal, very vulgar, yet technically very good. …Alonzo speaks as a prophet of the streets, who believes that the only way to enforce the law is to break it as often as he can. He is charismatic, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. I appreciated Washington’s conviction with this character. The character could’ve easily become annoying and “too” over the top, but Washington operates on so many levels that we don’t have time to get sick of him. As well, Hawke did a remarkable job building on layer after layer as the day wears on. His character takes off at about half way through the movie, as he begins shedding his naivete, and his timing is just remarkable. There is a great deal of humor in “Training Day” and most of the time, it works. There is a sequence in which Jake is high and we see the world through his eyes intercut with these great reaction shots. It is funny without making the viewer uncomfortable. This is also the key to the violence. “TD” is somewhat reminiscent of “Shaft”, a movie I liked at first viewing but later found the violence too much of a ploy and a distracting one at that. But here the violence is still angry and brutal, but somehow focused and controlled. “Training Day” is not about kids in Sunday School. It is about rough, violent morally crippled members of society. These characters swear regularly. No—more than regularly! I do not endorse the swearing, but would anyone seriously believe a gang member who called someone a “Stinker?” I wouldn’t. As well, there is a lot of violence toward the end of the film, but it seemed like everyone was ready for it. It was tastefully done, and, again, it is expected due to the nature of the movie. There is some drug content, yes, but I have never found people using drugs on film to be offensive. I find the subject sad more than anything else. But I also have no exposure to the drug culture, so this may be reason for warning to those who do have past experience. The one thing I did find offensive was the background nudity. It seems that the director took a lesson from Paul Verhoeven (“Showgirls”, “Hollow Man”) and decided that naked women would help ticket sales. It was without a doubt distracting and unnecessary. Overall, “Training Day” was thought provoking and engrossing. Washington’s Alonzo, who at first dabbles in areas of gray but then folds into black, was extremely intriguing. Washington’s usually warm smile becomes eerie. For me, the best aspect of the film is the morality tale shown in Jake. It was highly involving, with the build-up brilliantly orchestrated and the payoff a sheer stroke of brilliance. One of the years best.
—Jason Eaken, age 18
Negative—Training Day has TONS of cussing, brief nudity, drugs, violence… the “morals” of this movie are hard to observe. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone and I wouldn’t see it again. HOWEVER, the story itself has some redeeming qualities. Of course the acting is incredible and I would not be surprised if there are some Oscar nods next March. I was impressed with Ethan Hawke’s ability to keep up with Denzel Washington. But besides the acting, this movie does pull out a point. For instance, the “good” cop, Ethan Hawke’s Jake Hoyt, obviously has a moral standard, even if he does cross the line a couple of times. And the “bad” cop, Denzel Washington’s Alonzo Harris, does not prevail in the end. Although he seems to be juggling his lies, controlling the witnesses, justifying his actions and keeping all his loose ends tied, things eventually unravel. This film shows that no matter how well the evil seems to be working in the first place, even if it is for thirteen years, it does eventually unravel…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
—Lori, age 27
Neutral—While this movie posed an interesting moral dilemma encased in a spell-binding plot, the content should shy away the sensitive. There is EXTREME language as this is a gang related movie and there is a brief scene with a nude woman in the background. While the story and the movie itself captivated me, the content made me come out of the theatre wondering if I like it or not. Still not sure!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Eric Ritskes, age 18
Movie Critics
…sometimes extremely graphic violence, vulgarities and obscenities dominate the dialogue and rap soundtrack…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…slides into mediocrity, running for the safety of a standard story about a bad cop getting his comeuppance…
—Bill Muller, Arizona Republic
…maintains a tension that isn’t easily shaken, in large part because the filmmakers succeed in taking us to the streets…
—Ron Weiskind, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
—Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter
…107 F-words and F-word derivatives and permutations… 88 scatological terms… 10 religious profanities or exclamations…
…female full frontal nudity is briefly seen and some sexual activity is implied…