The Moment of Workout Day That Won Denzel Washington an Oscar
There’s nothing more dangerous or unpredictable than a clean cop. But as Lucifer seeks to close the deal with Faust, there’s always a different tact. Alonzo apologizes for the “ugly” realities of the real world, though he explains, “You have to have a little dirt on you for anyone to trust you.”
Alonzo tried to smear the narcotics squad candidate from the moment Jake showed up for work, but the move was in play long before that. The “Zig Zag” man has Jake smoke a bowl of mean green with a PCP burst while cutting four lanes of traffic (with a non-verbal service revolver replica for anyone complaining about delays).
Alonzo continues to make Jake drink at work, questions his marital fidelity, conducts a search with a take-out menu passing for a warrant, and endures multiple unnecessary beatings. It is a grooming process, which is wasted on stubborn youth.
The whole operation, as we just learned, is about making a score and keeping control of the streets. It’s a team effort, and everyone has to take one for the team. Peer pressure is a hell of a thing to put a budding professional underling through, and the satanic sergeant throws it like a salad in a three-course meal: take the drugs, take the money, own the streets.
When the rookie narc aspirant breaks a chain of command, which was passed down from the three wise men themselves, Alonzo plays the god, the serpent, and the king of the Kongs to bring the sheep back to the fold. His ungodly commandments are set in stone. The two-man dialogue in the scene below is a devilishly convincing breakdown of brassy common sense. Jake sees Roger (Scott Glenn), the ex-cop and now ex-nobody left on the ground from the raid, as Alonzo’s friend whom the superior killed “like a fly”. But the veteran drug cop knew Roger as ‘the biggest major offender in Los Angeles’, whom he watched ‘operate with impunity for over 10 years’. Alonzo believes his justifications. “It’s the game. I play his ass. It’s my job. It’s your job.
With this, Alonzo spells it out bluntly, clearly and without leaving room for misinterpretation: Detective Harris is a master of the ass, a virtuoso undercover infiltration. The audience knows that Jake was played just as skillfully as Roger. Manipulated as a character on a checkered square. Washington completely sells this idea. We don’t doubt his sincerity, diabolical as the concept is. The character is shrewd, a bit intimidating, and an irresistibly magnanimous prince. But the actor has one more weapon in his arsenal, and it’s barely concealed.