Training Day: or How did your first day go?
Training Day opens in early morn with LAPD officer Jake Hoyt preparing for his first day on a new assignment—he’s transferring to Rampart Division and will undergo evaluation under Detective Alonzo Harris, a bad-ass mofo cop played by Denzel Washington. After a meet-up in a cafe, the two drives around town as Alonzo shows Jake the ropes: Alonzo’s wolf vs. sheep philosophy, Alonzo hustling the neighborhood for easy money (with cameo appearances from Snoop Dogg and Macy Gray), and Jake getting roped to smoke the cannabis Alonzo confiscated from some college kids—all this taking up the first half.
The movie, by the way, was mostly shot on location, showing real gangsta neighborhood and real gangsters in the process, that I’d give it a gritty A for authenticity.
Turns out, Alonzo’s a savvy crooked cop who just had a run-in with a Russian mob. And he has to make a way around the system to get his fix—a huge sum of money to pay the mafia. And to get that money, the process involves stealing money, shooting a fellow cop and staging a scene, disposing off a drug dealer, and, witnesses if necessary. Unfortunately, that would comprise the other half of Hoyt’s ‘Training Day,’ which starts out, more or less, like any regular first day at work, but ends unlike any other.
An ambivalent Hoyt refuses to take part in Harris’ shenanigans. But he’s probably in deep shit already the moment he stepped in that diner earlier to meet Harris. This, he only realized after Harris left him to his Mexican “friends.” And we get some high caliber acting from Ethan Hawke. As Jake, he is so convincing whether when he is stoned, conflicted, or adamantly trying to hold his own against Denzel’s Harris or the Mexican gangsters. He’s so good that you feel the walls closing in around him and you wish for a miracle to happen–just to save his ass. You wish for a miracle when a gangster holds a shotgun on him and is about to blow his ass.
If not for that one ballsy move, one “heroic” act he did earlier—well, we won’t have a movie.
Or at least we won’t have the movie’s third act, which is bonkers, of course. And by bonkers, I mean Hawke’s Hoyt making his best pre-The One Neo Anderson impression in a lopsided fight against Denzel’s Harris’s Agent Smith, not giving up until he’s finally able to turn the tables. And no, it doesn’t involve him dying first before being revived by Trinity with a kiss—just plain old mano a mano and plentiful of guts and determination to fight for what’s right.
And if you’ve been reading this, this far, you’re probably wondering now if I’m going to say anything about the movie. (Is it good? Is it bad? Is the acting superb? Are there any female characters in this movie? Yes, Eva Mendes and Charlotte Ayanna are in this movie.) Because up to this point what you’ve been reading is just glorified plot summary. Ain’t this supposed to be a review? Truth is, there’s really not much else I could add to what has been said about this movie. It won in the fucking Oscars! (Assuming you do follow the Oscars.)
What else? There’s violence. And there’s gratuitous nudity too! And Eva Mendes got noticed by Hollywood for it. And landed her a few dozen roles including one in James Gray’s We Own the Night, which is great—you should definitely see it if you’re into crime dramas. Or if you’re into Joaquin Phoenix’s or Mark Wahlberg’s movies.
Training Day is a movie you just have to see if you’re into crime thrillers. It is near perfect. What else could have improved it? Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe a parallel storytelling of what Alonzo did right before their final confrontation—this is while Hoyt is being roasted by the Mexicans. That, that would have surely elevated this movie to perfection. Seeing a little action (wink, wink) before the final action sequence wouldn’t be so bad after all.