Why Training Day's King Kong Speech Is One of the Best Movie Monologues Ever

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Not all of Washington’s dynamics are limited to the craft of acting. Some of Alonzo’s lines come across like a Tom Morello guitar run in a Rage Against the Machine song. Denzel drives beautiful dissonances without a blue note. And he does the whole thing two feet from an imposing Terry Crews, who stands there like a giant Marshall amp ready to knock him off his feet.

The monologue is more than engaging, it is arresting. And it ends in an unexpected place, certainly not foreseen by the audience or the players when it begins. Alonzo is shouting for his life here. The stakes of “go to jail or go home” are just the opening ante of the cop’s wager of controlling his neighbors. And after the rousing wakeup call ends, the crowd’s reaction recalls the conclusion of Bruce Springsteen’s street anthem “Jungleland,” which reads “and they wind up wounded, not even dead.”

Training Day tells the story of a veteran police detective, undercover cop Alonzo, who babysits rookie narc cop Jake, played by Ethan Hawke, through his first day on the street. The role of Alonzo was the first villain Washington ever played. The actor had an onscreen reputation as an authentic hero. All his characters, even Pfc. Peterson in A Soldier’s Story, who shot a black sergeant and left him on the side of the road, had a code. There is a set of ethics and morals which the character stuck to, even in the face of a murder confession. By the ‘90s, Washington was a renowned role model in cinema.

For most of Training Day, he uses this reputation to his advantage. Denzel puts on his good guy voice and most charismatic smile, and Alonzo’s side glances are invitations. He’s got all the answers and knows how to impart wisdom. Even if you don’t want to hear it.

But it’s a beautiful ruse, and Washington has a ball playing the villain. Alonzo is a demon in a 1978 Monte Carlo lowrider. The devil’s got gold chains, black leather, and a badge. The road to hell is greased with bad intent. Alonzo doesn’t need a siren. He can stop traffic with a stare. He bends the law until it breaks, and is the guy you call to put in the fix. He rousts citizens for the cardio. Alonzo messes with people’s heads as a passing thought.

Meanwhile, Jake thinks the narco beat will put him on the fast track to detective grade. Alonzo is evaluating Jake to see if he’s got what it takes, and if he’ll take what he can get.

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