A classic hit, Training Day, was top of the box office during this week twenty years ago. I cover my thoughts and what it would look like if it was recast and released today!
Training Day is one of the most popular and quoted Denzel Washington movies. Which is saying a lot. It was released on October 5th, 2001 and runs 2 hours and 2 minutes. It stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. The premise of the movie is a rookie cop’s (Jake Hoyt) first day as a narcotics officer in L.A. He’s paired up with Denzel Washington’s character Alonzo Harris who is not exactly the cleanest cop on the force. Hoyt is put in many tough circumstances and forced to make several ethical decisions on his first day. It had a budget of $45,000,000 and nearly made half of that back the first weekend in North America with $22,550,778. To date, it has grossed over $76,000,000 in the US and Canada and $104,000,000 worldwide.
Despite its popularity, it only scores a 7.7 on IMDb and a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, though the audience gives it an 89% which is more in line. To be fair, the original King Kong has a 98% rating so maybe King Kong does have something on him.
I loved Training Day. I knew most of the movie and it has been parodied a ton, best by the Chappelle Show with Wayne Brady. Honestly, one of the best sketches in sketch comedy show history. The movie is really well-paced, acted, and directed. There isn’t a ton of wasted time or characters.
You feel like you’re in the world from the moment the movie starts. You can feel the anxiety as Jake tries to make it through the day. Forced to confront his own notion of right and wrong as well as not get killed. Alonzo loves blurring the lines and lives comfortably across the line as a dirty cop. He feeds off of it. Jake, just a rookie cop trying to make it through the day.
You also feel for the people that hate Alonzo. The neighborhood in South Central is tired of his shit. You see it at the end of the movie but also when characters mutter things under their breath behind his back. The last 20 or so minutes of that movie are amazing. Jake getting the snot beat out of him like he’s John McClain then him throwing himself onto the car to stop Alonzo. Just a great sequence. The neighborhood turning their back in disgust on Alonzo was also perfect. His “King Kong” line is great as a man whose trying to hang on to his sense of pride but losing it. Plus his death is perfect. There is no way that anyone in the neighborhood is going to kill a cop and have that heat on them. So the vans pulling up and unloading ALL the bullets in him was perfect. Alonzo was a brutal man who deserved a brutal death. And that’s exactly what he got as a character and we got as an audience.
I also like the scene where Jake is supposed to be get killed but he had saved a girl from getting raped. She’s the cousin of the guy ready to kill Jake. When he finds out that Jake saved her life, he knows he has to let Jake go. It was a really tense scene and Ethan Hawke plays it perfectly.
I think the IMDb rating of 77% is kind of insulting to the movie. It’s way better than a C+ in my book. I would be more in line with the Rotten Tomatoes 89%. As much as I love it, it really isn’t an A- movie but a really really really good B+ movie. It’s not Denzel’s best role (that would probably be the Hurricane) but it still is a perfect example of why we love him so much as an actor.
Honestly not much needs to be done to modernize the movie. The only thing that would change would be the cell phones used. Alonzo would still drive the same car. It’s still a perfect ride for him today as it was 20 years ago. So honestly, really don’t need to change a whole lot.
Casting is going to be a bit more of a challenge though honestly there are only 2 main characters to worry about. Denzel Washington is a one-of-a-kind actor. I could see certain studios want a certain guy. Apparently, CBS thinks he can be replaced by Queen Latifah. Which is odd but whatever. I’m sure the Rock would be pushed if they did the movie again. But to me, a few guys come to mind. One would be Jamie Foxx. Maybe it’s the constant Bet MGM ads but Jamie has really broadened his acting chops since cutting his teeth on In Living Color. He did a fantastic job in Baby Driver. He could definitely pull of Alonzo.
Yet, I would go with Idris Ebna. He was fantastic as Stringer Bell in The Wire and hasn’t disappointed since then. I know he’s getting consideration for replacing Daniel Craig as James Bond but he would be great in a remake of Training Day. There are few people that have the onscreen presence that a Denzel Washington has, Idris has that. He might be a bit older than Denzel was at the time the movie was filmed, but that doesn’t affect the character of Alonzo. Him being a few years older is no big deal. Plus, I can just see him in the restaurant with the newspaper.
That leads us to Jake, played by Ethan Hawke. This is going to be a bit more difficult. I thought of guys like Chris Pine or maybe even Adam Driver. Problem is, Jake has to be young and green so a lot of actors I like would be too old for the part. I am a gigantic fan of Rami Malek and want him in everything but he doesn’t fit the bill here. There are two people I think fit perfectly. One goes back to Baby Driver and would be Ansel Elgort who was fantastic in that movie. He can pull off the young, innocent, lost puppy dog aspect that Jake’s character has for much of the movie. Though he’s not a huge name in Hollywood he’s really really good and would nail the role.
But if I have to take one actor to play Jake, it’s Aaron Paul. Though like Mark Hamill with Luke Skywalker everyone will always see him as Jesse Pinkman, he’s capable of a lot more than that. He made the Need For Speed at least watchable. He’s always a solid to outstanding performer no matter what role he’s given. To see him and Idris on the screen together would be an absolute blast. I could also see Pedro Pascal pulling off the role of Jake. He’s certainly on the radar for a lot of people thanks to his role in The Mandalorian. He could absolutely pull off the role of Jake.
Eve Mendez doesn’t have a ton of screen time but her character plays a key role. I’d have Zoe Saldana cast in that role. I’d also bring back Snoop Dogg to play the Blue.