Wednesday, January 09, 2008

smiles and cries

Alonzo (Denzel Washington) is a street savvy cop who mixes drugs, sex, and experience all into the job. “You gotta see the streets. You gotta feel it. You gotta smell it, you gotta taste the streets.” He plays by his own rules and even though he seems like the man in charge it all feels like Alonzo is constantly trying to prove his manhood. “Man up, man up” he’s constantly trying to make Jake grow up but what is there to make us think that Jake is such a rookie. Granted he doesn’t know the streets like Alonzo, but Jake is a man unto himself. He’s got a wife, a child, and is moving up professionally. Alonzo furthers the situation by adding race into the equation. Time after time Alonzo refers to Jake as “my nigga” which turns the tables on black and white. He uses the term endearingly though, prideful in Jake as if he was his own son. As much as this film addresses race it also deals with morals, humanity, and justice. This film is both good cop bad cop as much as it is buddy cop. Time after time Alonzo asks, “do you wanna go to jail or do you wanna go home?” as if he himself is fearful of the consequences of his actions. As Jake struggles with classifying their work as just, Alonzo makes it seem like they’re doing the right thing by working from the inside out and that time will place Jake in a position to enforce real change. Is this what Alonzo truly believes but he’s so deep in the streets that he can’t get out of it? This film as well as Se7en provides insight to how conflicted society is and how our actions don’t always add up with our intentions. In the end it was street justice that prevailed but that wasn't something that Jake believed in during the entire film. So I just question whether or not the "right" thing happened and if Jake truly came out on top.


Blogger Madeline Obler said...

I do not think Alonzo truly believes that to affect change you must work from the inside out. Alonzo was an extremely selfish man who only had his own well-being in mind throughout the entire film. He said whatever he needed to say to manipulate Hoyt into doing exactly what Alonzo wanted him to do. I also do not think Alonzo wanted to get out of the streets. I think he enjoys the power he has on the streets (or the power he portrays himself as having). He enjoys being a leader and being in a position of power that allows him to talk down to people and push people around. He is a selfish man, though a very interesting character, who is completely caught up in himself.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Vladigogo said...

Is the use of the term "my nigga" truly affectionate in the film? Is that how Alonzo is using it?

In addition, what is the ethical position of the film? What does it posit at the end about what behavior is right and what behavior is wrong?

Just like Se7en which also asks questions about what is proper and who is right--Mills, Somerset, John Doe?

7:04 PM  
Blogger Emily Wilson said...

I think its interesting how you brought up race in your post. We run into many different types of races throughout the film, but there does seem to be some tension. Like when Alonzo calls Jake "my nigga", is this suppose to be endearing name or putting him down. He only says it to him when he Jake does something he likes, maybe relating him to a black person? As if he is doing a better job when he acts like Alonzo? It is hard to tell how Alonzo feels about white people. Race is a factor in this movie that makes this story.

8:09 PM  

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