Watching: Bad Cops

Two great films, one starring Denzel Washington.

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.


Your weekly double feature: Police corruption

Denzel Washington, left, and Ethan Hawke in a scene from “Training Day.”Robert Zuckerman/Warner Brothers

‘Training Day’ and ‘Prince of the City’

“Let the garbage men handle the garbage,” Detective Sgt. Alonzo Harris tells his ambitious new charge in “Training Day.” (2001). “We’re professional anglers, OK? We go after the big fish.” For Alonzo, played by a dangerously charismatic Denzel Washington, ordinary police work is not merely a bore but also totally disconnected from the transactional nature of his job as a narcotics officer. If a suspect cannot be flipped or shaken down or otherwise manipulated to line his pockets or enhance his power, then he’s not worth the time.


This extends to partners, too. In this gripping dawn-to-dusk thriller by Antoine Fuqua, now streaming on Netflix and HBO Max, the Los Angeles police officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) aspires to be part of Harris’s team but barely makes it past breakfast before he has been deliberately compromised. “Training Day” slowly reveals the depth of Alonzo’s corruption — which was plainly an issue before he owed $1 million to the Russian mob — and asks us to imagine the small compromises that got him to a point where justice is off the agenda. But what’s exciting about the film, beyond the two electric lead performances, is how closely it aligns with Jake’s perspective, making the audience feel as if they’re on a suffocating ride-along.

The director Sidney Lumet made a few excellent films about police corruption, including “Serpico” and “Q&A.” But his 1981 epic, “Prince of the City,” is a good lesson in what it’s like when men like Harris try to go straight. Like Alonzo, Daniel Ciello (Treat Williams) is a narcotics officer who has been allowed to operate with almost no oversight, leading to years of sinister freelancing. His decision to work with internal affairs is an attempt at absolution that morphs into a terrible reckoning, one that leaves him without allies and with no clean way to atone for his sins. Only we can see him as a flawed hero trying, at long last, to do the right thing. SCOTT TOBIAS

Stream “Training Day” on Netflix and HBO Max. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Rent “Prince of the City” on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.


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