On the streets. Alonzo shows Jake a few things (Washington and Hawke)
dir Antoine Fuqua|
scr David Ayer
with Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Dr Dre, Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg, Tom Berenger, Cliff Curtis, Harris Yulin, Raymond J Barry, Eva Mendez, Nick Chinlund
release US 21.Sep.01; UK 1.Feb.02
There's an edgy, authentic rhythm to this gritty undercover cop drama that's boosted by strong performances ... and then undermined by an appalling ending. This is a day in the life of rookie detective Jake (Hawke), on his first ride-along with the legendary narcotics officer Alonzo (Washington). As the day progresses, Jake becomes increasingly suspicious of his hero's methods. Is Alonzo crossing the line, abusing his power and breaking the law in order to uphold it? Will Jake survive this trial by fire?
Washington crackles with life as Alonzo--he's the devil incarnate: tough, scary, likeable and very funny as he puts Jake through a mind-bending series of situations. It's a flashy role and Washington revels in it. Trickier--and much more subtle--is Hawke's performance as Jake: confused, startled and ultimately staring wide-eyed at a side of his career he never wanted to see. In the film's first hour, the dialog and situations snap with energy and life. And director Fuqua, who uses his locations brilliantly, isn't afraid to let things get very quiet now and then, adding to the tone and building the growing sense of dread beautifully with unexpected flashes of both horror and hilarity. Then the hand of a Hollywood-hack rewrite starts to show. Where the film should end on a note of ambiguity, leaving us to think for ourselves, it instead shifts gears and ignites an avalanche of plot improbabilities and incongruities, culminating in a final sequence straight from every bad thriller ever made. It's so dumb that it takes the breath away, destroying any possible message and bringing to mind a phrase I use too often for films like this: What a waste!
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