Los Angeles in 2001 – parts of it are scary places to be – the streets swarm with drug dealers. Such is the workplace of the LAPD Narcotics Branch. Detective Alonzo Harris (played by Denzel Washington) has given 10 loyal and dedicated years of his police career to the Narcs, in an effort to help clean up the streets. We meet him the day he takes on a first-day rookie Jake Hoyt (by Ethan Hawke), to show him the ropes. Jake was a security guard but he now wants to join the fight to stop drugs being sold on the LA streets. We spend the next 24 hours with the veteran and his protégé. From the get-go, it is clear that Alonzo’s methods are ‘unconventional’ (to say the least) and Jake is taken on a dramatic ride through this dangerous and frightening new world. The only problem is that Alonzo doesn’t always work by the ‘letter of the law’ and Jake is shocked by some of his tactics – to the point where he’s no longer confident of Alonzo’s sanity nor of which ‘side’ Alonzo is actually working for – he is also terrified he won’t actually survive the full 24 hour shift.
This movie is excellent. It is fast paced, action-packed, in-your-face and terrifying. The mood is set from the first scene and the camera work on the action and drama sequences is outstanding. Denzel Washington is jaw-droppingly effective as the wayward Alonzo Harris – just superb. Ethan Hawke’s naive Jake Hoyte is a perfect foil to Harris’ character and together they are totally authentic in this partnership. Some of the scenes are chaotic and you may feel that towards the end that the storyline becomes a little far-fetched, yes that is quite possible. However, I enjoyed this – I was rivetted to the screen for the whole movie, it is very good indeed.
Not surprisingly, at the Academy Awards (Oscar) presentation for the year, Denzel Washington received his second Oscar as “Best Actor in a Leading Role” for his performance as Alonzo Harris.
Made 2001. Directed by Antoine Fuqua