Wednesday, January 11, 2006

No real heroes

Training Day is a fairly disturbing movie all around. So many of the circumstances portrayed in the film made me uncomfortable. I won’t go into specifics, though.

This movie does not exactly fall into the Buddy-Cop realm. The two main characters are paired up, but they are not working together. Throughout his training day, Jake is repeatedly manipulated by Alonzo. That manipulative quality is the most powerful part of Alonzo’s personality, and it constantly has the viewer wondering whether he is a good undercover narcotics agent or if he is in fact just a crooked cop who can talk his way through most situations. I was definitely confused for most of the movie. Alonzo also has an extremely abrasive personality, which is probably what makes his manipulative tendencies so persuasive.

Where Alonzo is a seemingly crooked cop, Jake is a more by-the-book. He has tremendous difficulty in accepting the methods he is told he must adopt in order to be “a part of the team.” Understandably, he objects to smoking the PCP, which he actually thought was marijuana, and to taking the “blood money” from their faux bust. Jake is lamentably easy to manipulate, however. This quality makes the day extremely difficult for him to deal with. His ability to return to his own values in the end makes him the more admirable of the two cops.

Neither cop really fits a strict hero/sidekick description. Alonzo says that he is a hero, that he has put away a lot of drug dealers and the like, but his less desirable and more dominant qualities cancel that out for me. He is really just a manipulative bastard with a price on his head. Jake is neither sidekick nor hero. He takes advice from Alonzo, who is obviously not a sidekick, but also offers the legal alternatives and consequences to his training officer. Doing both of these conflicts with King’s definition of the cop-movie sidekick. He cannot be a hero either, though. His actions only lead to the death of Alonzo; there really isn’t any heroism there. Nor is there really a change in Jake. He does become a bit more intense at the end of the film, but his values have remained intact. For example, he does not kill Alonzo in cold blood – he merely shoots him in the ass even though he has the perfect opportunity to take his life.

This movie was disconcerting, and there were no heroes. I will admit, though, that it was well-made, and I feel that Denzel Washington did in fact deserve his Oscar for his role in this film.


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