Yo, dog. When I think about a white actor capable of hanging out and interacting with the gang bangers in South Central, I naturally think of Ethan Hawke. I mean, he just seems so street to me, like he's got a complete handle on the 'hood. If I were a cop, I'd want him undercover with me because I don't think anyone would ever suspect Ethan was actually a narc. When I close my eyes and hear street talk, I usually mistake the person for Ethan Hawke. I've said to several gang bangers, "Hey, I heard you talking and thought you were Ethan Hawke," and they've responded, "Yeah, man, I get that a lot."
Let's face it, this movie should have been over the second Ethan took one step out of Alonzo Harris's (Denzel Washington) car. That's because some sniper up on some building would have immediately seen him sticking out of Compton like a French bread out of Calista Flockhart's ass and shot him in the head.
As far as this movie is concerned, the LAPD is just a different kind of gang, with similar ethics. Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) is a cop who does his job with no concern for law, procedure or ethics. The film takes place in one day, the day Alonzo decides to train Jake Hoyt (Hawke) to work in his unit. Initially, Alonzo seems like he gets things done, but Jake starts to notice that Alonzo doesn't exactly follow the letter of the law when carrying out police business. Alonzo is also collecting a lot of money and drugs in his trunk.
I think most rational people understood that there were serious problems within the LAPD when Rodney King got the crap beat out of him and Mark Fuhrman took the stand in the O.J. case. Today, telling a story about corruption in the LAPD is like kicking a dead horse or exposing racial tensions in Cincinnati. Tell me something I don't already know. The idea is to get the audience to think, "Hey, I didn't know that!" not, "Oh please, not this again." It's also not a directing or writing challenge. There are a thousand other cities in the U.S. with similar problems and better stories to tell. Writers and directors, on the other hand, seem obsessed with conveying to audiences that LA is a cesspool. Everyone who's been there and doesn't live there already knows that. And doesn't care.
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