The Netflix Crime Thriller Is Denzel Washington’s Greatest Role

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

If you’re a fan of Denzel Washington—who isn’t?—and in the mood for a gritty journey through moral ambiguity and the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, check out Training Day on Netflix

Denzel Washington In Training Day

The intense drama and gripping crime thriller revels brilliantly in the murky depths of police corruption and ethical complexity.

When it debuted in 2001, the film earned a stellar reputation for its visceral storytelling, compelling characters, and powerful performances, particularly from co-stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.

In short, Training Day is well worth a stream. 

Relentless 24 Hours

The high-octane crime thriller, directed by Antoine Fuqua, is set over a relentless and virtually unbroken 24-hour period. It follows the first day on the job of a rookie narcotics officer, Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), a green copper eager to make his mark.

But things aren’t what they seem; his first day on the job soon amounts to the most challenging day of his life. 

Assigned to decorated veteran detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), a local legend known—and feared—for his unorthodox methods, the two set out into the Wild West, i.e. the drug-ridden streets of Training Day.

Charismatic and commanding, Harris takes Hoyt under his wing, ostensibly to determine his suitability for the brutal environment that is undercover narcotics work. 

Denzel Washington Is Transformative

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As they progress, Harris thrusts Hoy into a sequence of increasingly dubious situations orchestrated by the veteran.

First, the two confiscate drugs from a street dealer, only to offer these same drugs as a bribe to a pair of informants. This is followed by a morally questionable encounter with a duo of deeply corrupt LAPD detectives. 

Each incident further erodes Hoyt’s black-and-white view of law enforcement, exposing him to painful, ethical gray areas and compromises inherent to Harris’s brutal version of street justice.

Denzel Washington’s acting chops transform his character into an outsized anti-hero, enriching Training Day immensely. 

The Criminal Underworld

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Soon, Hoyt discovers irrefutably that Harris’s deeds surpass the merely unorthodox—they’re 100% criminal.

The veteran possesses deep and active connections to the criminal underworld; his manipulations grow more sinister as he forcibly involves Hoyt in a plot to rob (and murder) a drug dealer, one of Harris’s longtime informants. 

Moreover, the plot reveals an even more dastardly side as Hoyt learns Harris’s illegal machinations serve to pay off an enormous debt to the Russian mob—a predicament placing both cops in mortal danger.

Denzel Washington Is The Anti-Hero

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Throughout the film, Harris embodies the ultimate anti-hero. He rationalizes each corrupt action he takes brilliantly—arguing it’s all necessary to maintain order in a chaotic universe.

In the eyes of Denzel Washington’s anti-hero of anti-heroes, the ends in Training Day justify the means, even if they are brutal and deadly.

His philosophy challenges Hoyt’s ethical bounds, and the film is a master class in developing a literary foil, pitting opposite characters against each other. 

His Best Performance?

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Denzel’s portrayal of Harris is considered perhaps his finest performance. The blurred line between hero and villain embodied by the character won the actor widespread acclaim and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. 

Who can forget his iconic line—”King Kong Ain’t got sh*t on me!” It’s one for the ages. 

Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of Hoyt also delivered a nuanced performance, precisely capturing the naivety and moral struggle of a good, albeit naive, person in a series of bad situations. Hawk earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work.

Critical Acclaim

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Deservedly, both Denzel Washington and Training Day received critical acclaim for their raw, unflinching examination of police corruption and ethical ambiguity.

Washington’s and Hawke’s performances won accolades, as did the screenplay’s intense pacing and excellently developed tension (the scene where Hoyt almost gets his head blown off by a Mexican gang isn’t easy to forget). Fuqua’s direction also enjoyed recognition. 

While the film was noted for its knack for provoking thought and discussion surrounding the ethical dilemmas faced by law enforcement officers—particularly undercover narcotics units—some critics derided the film’s over-the-top depiction of corrupt policing. Still, the film was generally lauded. 

Stream Training Day On Netflix

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Its box office reception was equally successful—if not more so. Due in no small part to Denzel Washington’s performance, Training Day grossed more than $76 million domestically and over $104 million worldwide against a budget of approximately $45 million. In other words, it earned an enormous profit. 

Its gripping plot, stellar cast, and veritable word-of-mouth publicity meant audiences flocked to theaters. Comparably huge “crowds” will likely view it on the world’s biggest streaming platform. 

Ultimately, the film is a landmark–an icon of the crime thriller genre. It highlights Denzel Washington’s acting prowess and exemplifies why he’s a legend. Stream Training Day today.