Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Training Day Reflections

Training Day was the first movie where we see a reversal of racial tension. Unlike 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop and In the Heat of the Night where we see that the black cop is the minority, Ethan Hawke, who plays the character of Jake Hoyt, is a white cop who finds himself as the minority throughout most of the movie. Hoyt is thrown into the heart of the ghetto of LA where gangs of blacks and hispanics run free. Hoyt, a goody two-shoes white cop, doesn't really know how to blend into his surrounding which makes his character more believable. I think this because most white people would have quite a hard time integrating into the poor minority culture. By observing Hoyt's body language and actions in racially different situations, you can tell that Hoyt feels very uncertain and out of place. For instance, when Hoyt is trying to keep the black lady and her son calm as Alonzo Harris (played by Denzel Washington) is searching the black women's house, Hoyt tries to ask the young boy if they were cool. Not only doesn't the young boy not respond, he refuses to give Hoyt's outstretched arm a "pound" in return. Also, all the people that recognize Hoyt as a rookie are minorities who can tell that he feels nervous and out of place in their surroundings.
Training Day also alters the concept of "Good Cop". Hoyt in reality never stood for the "good cop" morals until either a gun was pointed at him or when Alonzo tried to have him executed. If anything, Hoyt was a follower who had his own greedy intentions. Sure, he turns down the quarter million he's offered after Alonzo kills the drug dealer, but does that matter? Through most of the movie he puts up with or participates in illegal activities "against his will", but why? Its because he wants to work his way up the ladder to become a detective too earn more money. "You should see the houses THEY live in" he says to his wife in the first scene. He acts so righteously offended by Alonzo right from the beginning, but goes along because he wants to attain his career goals. Some moral high-ground, huh?
On a different note, I find Alonzo Harris character a bit interesting. Its obvious Alonzo is not likable. Yes, he's a tough cop and he uses methods that aren't exactly legal, but Alonzo gives the audience nothing about his character to like. For most evil characters we tend to find areas where we can relate to their personality. For example, we grew to like Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket and John Doe in Se7en. It's because we saw the humanity in those characters. Denzel Washington is a very good actor, and has the awards to prove it, but I don't know if it was the way the character was written or what, but we are given nothing about Alonzo to like. We aren't allowed to see his humanity.


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