I’m going to start by saying I’ve never seen the film “Training Day.” I know what it’s about. I know of Denzel Washington’s award-winning turn as crooked cop Alonzo Harris. I also know that it helped propel director Antoine Fuqua (“The Magnificent Seven”) and writer David Ayer (“Suicide Squad”) into big-name creators. And yes, I know “King Kong ain’t got shit on me!” But still, I haven’t seen the film and have very little perspective in evaluating the new CBS series of the same name as a continuation of said film.
Not like that would really matter, because standing on its own legs, the series premiere of “Training Day” is nearly a complete failure, a frustrating schlock-fest full of tired stereotypes, cheap imitations and gross simplifications.
Reversing the race dynamic from the film, “Training Day” follows Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell, “Empire”), a Black L.A.P.D. officer, who’s placed undercover in the department’s S.I.S. (Special Investigation Section) to monitor his new partner, Detective Frank Roarke (Bill Paxton, “Big Love”), a white rogue cop with a penchant for looking at L.A. as a hunting ground. Playing off the contrast between the straightforward morality of Craig and the hardened, pragmatic nature of Roarke should be engaging, but it’s constantly bogged down by worn tropes and dialogue that sounds like they’ve been copy-and-pasted from cop thrillers and neo-noir of yore.
With lines like, “You’re chasing your father’s ghost,” “It’ll never be the same again” and “Trial by fire,” Craig’s baptism into the S.I.S. is plagued by what’s already been said and done, continually falling on deaf ears and tired eyes as the show plods from beat-to-beat, sticking to a formula viewers have seen time-after-time. At times, it feels like “Training Day” is just ticking off boxes as it introduces a murdered father, a concerned wife, a murdered partner — the list goes on. However, at no point does “Training Day” attempt to subvert these tropes, sledgehammering home every cliché into the viewer’s brain.
In an attempt to keep any potential watchers from slipping into a coma from boredom derived from exhausted plotting, “Training Day” resorts to diving over into the ridiculous. Mexican cartels and Cuban assassins fight in the streets with automatic assault rifles and rocket launchers, painting L.A. as a literal warzone.
This leads to perhaps the most abhorrent part of “Training Day”: its incredibly tone-deaf handling of crime while trying to pass itself off as a complex look into the underworld of Los Angeles. Using Roarke as its mouthpiece, “Training Day” spouts off statements like, “Crime is up 300 percent,” and, “It’s like the Purge every night,” with little regard to adding actual nuance to its conversations. Sometimes, Craig objects, confronting Roarke with, “If I have a son, I have to warn him about cops like you.” But the series often shuts down Craig, as Roarke’s wildcard approach is continually framed as effective in the war on crime. Meanwhile, nearly all Hispanic characters are painted as stereotypical gang members or over-the-top villains, bringing drugs and crimes, who Roarke describes them as “the most dangerous game.” As far as complexity goes, “Training Day” is what a typical Trump supporter believes serves as an in-depth look at crime; passing stereotypes off and legitimizing fear-mongering.
The move from hit film to TV series is always a risky move. And while there are successes — “Fargo,” “Westworld” and “Hannibal” being some of the most recent — there are also unequivocal bombs — “Minority Report,” “Damien” and “Limitless” to name a few. If there is any real justice in this world “Training Day” will join the refuse of the latter’s company.