It's like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has come to the streets of L.A. when Denzel Washington plays the rogue head of a maverick narcotics investigation squad. Thrown into his world of street justice, Ethan Hawke is the wide-eye newbie who goes through a fraternity-hazing-like first day when trying to prove his merit to his new boss. What happens makes boot camp look like summer camp as Hawke is tricked or talked into smoking laced pot, guzzling scotch, taking the rap for a shotgun blast and baby-sitting while his partner gets some lovin' in the next room.
Washington is electrifying as the edgy cop, quick to pull out his attitude and his gun, while MTV-schooled director Antoine Fuqua makes nearly every scene crackle with tension (despite some overcooked plot twists, mainly toward the end). Beyond being an eye-opening moviegoing experience, this top-notch thriller announces the director's training days are behind him.