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Denzel Washington in 'Training Day'

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Including Denzel Washington on a roundup of Great Performances isn’t exactly unexpected. What is a pleasant little surprise is that an actor who’s made a career portraying such on-screen saints as a wrongly jailed boxer and a slain civil rights leader has earned his place on this list by playing someone unrepentantly evil. By going bad, Washington, 46, reminds us why he’s so damn good in the first place. As Training Day’s Alonzo Harris, an LAPD narcotics cop who’s spent so many years wallowing in the gutters with sleaze that he’s unable to wash off their residue, Washington is a corrupt devil who sees himself as an avenging angel. Any idealism that he may have once had has long since curdled and gone sour behind the wheel of his black Monte Carlo. And when he’s forced to school a naive rookie (Ethan Hawke) on the mean streets, you get the sense that it never even occurred to him that he can’t corrupt the kid, too. For an actor who’s virtually trademarked righteous fury, Washington deliciously reinvents himself by showing that he’s not afraid of the dark.