It’s a pity the director or producers of Training Day didn’t look at one of the greatest films ever made about the circular hell of trying to balance justice against the temptations of corruption in a city like Los Angeles. Directed by William Friedkin, To Live and Die in LA was a tough, unsentimental and uncompromising work in the best of that tradition in the United States.
But Training Day is riddled with clichés about an older man (Denzel Washington) showing a rookie (Ethan Hawke) the ropes of the Los Angeles underbelly. It starts off slowly, becomes half interesting and then transforms itself into a completely different story.
Washington’s tough-talking cop finally becomes a cross between a hysterical Othello and township loudmouth; instead of becoming a deeply flawed man who is worthy of sympathy or redemption, he merely becomes a caricature.
Still, if his committee-created persona is at least watchable, which he always is, then Ethan Hawke’s performance is about as varied as a terminated patient’s flatline; he seems to think that if he hangs his shoulder and jaw he’s looking wounded and profound.
Washington has been nominated for a Golden Globe, and the only reason why it will be just if he gets and accepts it and/or the Oscar is that it will say what this load of reactionary claptrap so dismally fails to do. That is, that life is hard, morally grey and you deal with it as best you can, doubly so if you’re black in the US of A.