A movie staring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke which opened on the 5th of October, 2001. I was there, and this is what I saw:

The film starts out with Ethan Hawke doing a great job playing Rookie: First Day as a Narc. When confronted with his new sergeant, Denzel, he gets weak in the knees, and begins to babble. Denzel, by sheer physical presence and a bad-ass charisma that just might wither the chrome off a low-riding vehical were it given the chance, earns every nervous twitch Ethan sends his way. We know who 'the man' is: and we know he's not Good Cop this time. No, no. This dude is as bad as bad can be without becoming good again.

They travel around the city, and it soon becomes apparent just how bad the sargent is. He offers Ethan a hit on a hash pipe, and when upright whitey declines, Denzel whips out his gun and presses it against the poor sop's temple.

Ethan does the right thing, and cashes out the bowl.

A few minutes later, we are treated to the spectacle of how pcp-laced marijuana affects Ethan Hawk's vision and sense of time. Fortunately, the trippy drug sequence doesn't last that long. They go to some other dude's house and drink scotch and wax philosphical about life on The Street. Ethan impresses us by saying 'It's all about your smiles and cries.' (which I am hardlinking just in case some day it becomes a rather famous phrase.)

Hell, even Denzel shrugs somewhat musefully at the comment.

Then on to other things. Such as stopping a pair rapists, who Ethan subdues and Denzel whacks in the nuts with his gun while using repetitvely the words 'Suck' and 'My' and 'Dick' and the ever intimidating 'Are you calling me a liar, asshole?' Then they meet up with Snoop Doggy Dogg and force him to regurgitate his crack stash.

Anyhow, it was a pretty good flick. Not excellent, a little on the derivative side, but the plot is alright and the acting is solid and by the end of it my life long prejudice against Ethan Hawke had been removed, and replaced with a mild respect for the boney-cheeked, goatee'd fella. He does get to kick some shit, and plays the man of integrity with an understated conviction and some flare.

And whoever the sound engineers were, they did something swell with the deep boom of guns being fired across Los Angeles streets. In a way, it made the city seem that much more attractive.


Majorly important update!!!: Denzel won an Oscar -- Best Actor, 2001 -- for his badassness super-fudge crooked cop sequence throughout the bulk of this decent flick. /endupdate (4-23-02)

All in all I liked Training Day. I mean, Denzel Washington acts his ass off (and really deserved that Academy Award), and Ethan Hawke does a pretty good job too, though he's shadowed by Denzel in, like, every scene. The only beef I had with the movie was the product placement - sometimes it was obvious and forced, yet other times it worked a little too well.

SPOILER ALERT. You know the drill. Go see the movie first, then read on.

First example: the New VW Beetle in the scene where the "college kids" buy weed, and then get busted at gunpoint. Okay, this one almost makes sense: the kids were trying to be all 1960's "free love and dope" hippie style, but they were yuppie kids with well-to-do parents. So, they had to fake it. Solution: buy a VW Bug. However, this is sort of negative, isn't it? I mean, the kids look pretty stupid being busted, and yet... maybe they aren't. I mean, there are lots of college kids who smoke up, and even though the ones in the movie were the object of a joke, there's still enough recognition to sell the product. QED. The only giveaway that the Bug is planted is that most dope-smokin' college kids can't afford VW Bugs, and would probably drive up in an '87 Buick instead.

Second example: Best Buy. There's not much in terms of stealth here:

(ALONZO opens his trunk to reveal stereos and appliances.)

JAKE
Whoa, are you trying to open a Best Buy?

Duh.

Third example: beer. I don't know what kind of beer - I didn't catch it specifically - but it was some Mexican stuff. The cans were labelled "cerveza". In two scenes Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawk drink beer in a moving vehicle to show that they are truly badass. This is just plain irresponsible and yet they'll sell a lot of beer to anyone who also wants to be badass, (read: teenagers).

Fourth example: Kool cigarettes. This one is just creepy: Alonzo (Denzel's character) has just been ratted out as a gambler, hothead, and a general ass who's just as criminal as all the bad guys he locks up. Hoyt (Ethan's character, the good guy) has him at gunpoint and is threatening to shoot. Alonzo appears to reach for his gun, but at the last minute grabs a pack of Kools. Okay, Denzel is the BAD GUY now, and we're supposed to hate him. We're not supposed to emulate him, so why should we smoke Kools? Then again, when is advertising ever about logic? Denzel is cool to the death, and everyone knows that the number one way to be cool, to say "screw you" to The Man, is to smoke. So even when Alonzo has lost the respect of his partner and his entire community, he is still cool! I swear to god, I wanted to smoke Kools at that moment, and I've never touched a cigarette.

So, what can we conclude? Product placement, when done well, can move a lot of product. When done bad, it's almost funny. But these days, it's one of the most effective advertising techniques left.

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