BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Training Day (2001)

King Kong ain’t got nothing on him, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the classic crime film, Training Day.

I caught this on Netflix the other day. I always thought it was a great movie but I don’t think I had seen it since it first came out years ago. It’s funny how movies can transport your mind to a certain time period, i.e. for me it brought me back to a time in my life when I was young and naive, not the old geezer who has been knocked around by the world and sees potential trouble lurking around every corner even where there isn’t any.

Such is the dynamic of the film. Ethan Hawke plays Jake Hoyt, a young rookie on the LAPD, only worked as a uniform officer for a year and a half. He’s been assigned to a special detective’s unit in South Central LA under the leadership of Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). He views this as a chance to make a name for himself, to rise up in the police ranks and do a lot of good.

Ahh, but as the rookie goes out with Alonzo for his first “training day” he quickly learns that his youthful dreams don’t match with reality- a reality that battle hardened veteran of the streets Alonzo knows all about.

It’s funny, Denzel made a career of playing dashing heroes and nice guys with morals, yet the role he won the Oscar for and might be most remembered for is playing a character who is all about straddling the line between good and evil. As the day goes on, Alonzo pushes Jake to question and re-evaluate everything he ever thought he knew about police work.

With each passing hour, the training officer pushes Jake to cross more and more lines. Some examples? Alonzo opts to let a pair of rapists go. Rather than arrest them, he leaves them to the streets, confident that the victim’s street gangster cousin will find them, torture them and kill them. Jake is by the book and thinks they should be booked. Alonzo argues that way they’ll just be a drain on the system, costing the taxpayer money as they’re housed in jail for years only to be set loose and sent back to the street to commit more crimes.

There are more and more incidents like this throughout the day, ramping up the intensity as Alonzo pushes Jake to cross the line and break the law. Alonzo is quite convincing in his speeches. He comes across as the cop who knows it all, has seen it all, has been knocked around by the world and learned how to knock back. His rhetoric about how a teetotaling, by the book rule follower won’t last five minutes on the mean streets is convincing.

However, as the day wanes on, we begin to wonder how much of Alonzo’s rhetoric and how much of it is bullshit. Maybe Alonzo really is just a tough guy who is trying to toughen Jake up so he can become a bad ass street cop. Or, maybe Alonzo has more sinister intentions toward Jake.

Even worse yet, there are times Alonzo seems to believe in his own BS and isn’t sure where his lies end and reality begins.

So, as I re-watched this movie as an adult, I came to realize it’s all about perception vs. reality. When we are young, we have yet to get our asses kicked by the world. We are foolish and trusting. We get ideas in our head and think those ideas are going to work out perfectly, then when we get into that world we pursued, we find out that there’s a foot in every bush, looking to spring out and kick us in the ass. For example, Hoyt is a goody two shoes. He is a habitual rule follower. Hoyt should have stuck with being a uniformed officer, pulling over speeders and helping stranded motorists. Hoyt should have stayed off the mean streets. Hoyt was naive for thinking that he’d be able to go to war with gangsters and drug dealers all day and not have any blowback.

Those reading this, myself included – we’ll never experience anything as intense as Jake’s training day, but we have plenty of memories when life stuck us with the proverbial knife in the back. We trusted someone or something and it bit us. We lived through it. We have regrets over it. “If we had known” we keep repeating. If we had known this or that, we would have done things differently…but you don’t get to know until you do. Sad, because the lessons are all around us when we are young. Stories from older people who have been slapped around and even movies like this, though I’ll admit you just don’t get it when you’re young. You have to go through it. And yes, hopefully when we get through that experience that didn’t go as planned, we come out the other end stronger and wiser, determined to not make the same mistake twice.

Although I hate to admit it, I have been making the same mistakes over and over again for 20 years, though I suppose that’s a blog post for another time.

Funny, even the movie’s signature song, “Rock Superstar,” a highly playable tune that’s good for working out to (at least it was back in the days when I worked out) is all about perception vs. reality. Cypress Hill raps about people want to be rock superstars, thinking its all money and fun until they realize that they have to constantly churn out hits or become old news fast, kicked to the curb when another act copies their material and gets hired to do their routine for a lower price.

In conclusion, don’t be an undercover street detective or a rap superstar…or a blogger on a blog with 3.5 readers. I really thought my blog would have made me a millionaire by now, but all I do is just write to be read by 3.5 readers. See? Perception vs. reality.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, and a rare Oscar film that’s watchable.

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