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Detective Alonzo Harris is one of the greatest villains in cinema history, and the events of Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day do nothing to redeem him in the slightest. A corrupt cop who tries to impart his dirty ways on his new and impressionable partner, he winds up on the wrong side of the Russian Mafia. Until now, there's only way we ever thought that the story would end, but recent comments from Denzel Washington have shown that this wasn’t always the case.
Naturally, this story will get into massive spoilers for Training Day. You have been warned.
The Hollywood Reporter recently covered an event where Washington was on stage talking about the various accomplishments of his career. Which means those who were attending were treated to some wonderful pieces of trivia involving some of his biggest roles, one of which was his Academy Award-winning performance as Harris. As it turns out, the big surprise involving his first collaboration with director Antoine Fuqua was that it ended a much different way on the page. Washington briefly recalled his creative input, as follows:
In the original script he [lived], but I was not having it.
Before we evaluate how this ending could have changed everything that Training Day stood for, let’s go back and pretend that we’ve just seen the film. To do that, we’ll provide you with the best damned scene from the whole film, embedded below.
Now imagine you’ve just finished that scene, and imagine working your way to the ending, only to find that Alonzo Harris skated away from any sort of consequences. You could imagine that the audience would be fed up with the film, considering all of the nasty stuff Harris got away with. After a career of being on the take, pissing off the Russian Mafia, and then putting Ethan Hawke’s Officer Jake Hoyt through Hell during their rounds on the day we follow them throughout the film, Harris’ escape in the original script would have pissed any good audience member off.
Perhaps Denzel Washington realized what the audience would have thought of such an ending, and made the suggestion that this wasn’t the way to go. An actor of Washington’s talent knows how to read an audience before they even put one frame to celluloid, and he obviously knew that the original ending to Training Day had "rage quit" written all over it. If the film were focused on Harris’ character as the protagonist, that ending might have worked, as we would have either been rooting for him as an anti-heroic character, or we would have been made to realize that justice is sometimes never served.
However, we’re focused on Jake, and with Jake’s story in focus, the film has to end with Harris’ death. The tone shifts with this focus, as Harris’ death ultimately redeems Jake’s decision to walk away from Harris, allowing him to be at the mercy of the gang members holding him up. Either way, you could argue which ending Training Day benefits from more, but in the case of the film we saw on the screen, that decision was made by Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua. That decision cemented the film’s success, as well as the continued partnership we’ve seen them nurture over the past 14 years. A partnership that we’ll see on display once again when The Magnificent Seven opens on September 23, 2016.