‘Training Day‘ is the much-anticipated spin-off from the 2001 film… but the resulting tv series has a pilot that’s firing blanks…
“Snitching is just like looking at porn or listening to ABBA… everybody does it, but nobody cops to it…”
After saying the life of a baby during a drug-den shoot-out, officer Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) is called into headquarters where the Deputy Chief tells him she wants to promote him to a special assignment. On the surface it’s just a regular promotion for a job well done, but the ulterior motive is to become part of veteran investigator Frank O’Rourke (Bill Paxton)’s team. She’s aware of O’Rourke’s growing reputation for sailing close to the legal line (and sometimes riding roughshod over it) and doesn’t want a similar scandal to that which dogged the department fifteen years previously with a similar situation involving a detective called Alonzo Harris. Kyle’s job will be to keep him on the straight and narrow or find enough evidence to convict him before the situation gets worse.
Kyle, inspired by his late father’s no-nonsense approach to justice, is a straight-an-arrow as they come, driven by the need to emulate his father but also find out more details about the random drive-by shooting that claimed his life. His mission to win O’Rourke’s trust is complicated when it turns out that his father and O’Rourke were buddies and that his death may not have been as clear-cut as the police force have led Kyle to believe…
There’s been quite a bit of expectation attached to the debut of the latest film-to-tv spinoff/reworking Training Day. But a few minutes in to the CBS series you immediately start to see some of the quite obvious problems: a heavy-handed approach that includes a vastly over-ponderous, exposition-heavy script and some unlikely OTT heroic scenes all pointing to something quite different than the original film – or the promise of ‘The Shield‘ like trailers. What could have been an interesting continuation of the 2001 thriller, set in the same continuity but years later and swapping the races of the main characters and making it even more contemporary, is largely squandered, the good cop / bad cop team premise surviving but the execution sorely lacking.
While you can see a stronger series aching to break through, the characters continuously relate facts to the audience ad nauseam rather than to each other (partially in an effort to attach the series, albeit at arms-length, to that original film). More fanciful Hollywood movies allow cops to jump through windows and land on the tops of cars several storeys below, but for a series supposedly setting up a more gritty remit it instantly strikes up the wrong tone. Instead of Training Day, this Jerry Bruckheimer-produced outing can’t help itself from edging towards testosterone-powered Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon territory, something that sits uneasily with the central idea.
The police work out of vast, expansive smoke-filled open-plan faux-damaged luxury-loft premises with views of the city; criminals aren’t skulking in grimy crack-houses, they hide out in warehouses lit by hundreds of carefully placed candles that look oh-so-pretty on screen but serve no real purpose than to making the camera happy. Again, this is sometimes a common problem with tv shows, but here it really does strike the wrong note.
Danny Cannon has come a long way since directing the likes of Judge Dredd and made a very healthy niche for himself in television. When the film’s original director Antoine Fuqua was unavailable to direct the pilot, Cannon stepped in and while he uses cinematography skills to strong effect, the sleek look of a scene and the delivery of the action feels choreographed for ‘style’ throughout. As if anxious to build up its street-cred there’s also diverse cultural references stretching from Star Trek to The Purge but they flash by without real impact.
Bill Paxton is fine – he mastered the gruff, weathered, politically-incorrect persona decades ago and he struts his way through proceedings as well as expected – perhaps the strongest thing reason to watch the show. Relative newcomer Justin Cornwell is good enough as Kyle, though has less to work with, essentially there to disapprove and scold and look conflicted but he handles the interpersonal and action scenes in equal measure. Arrow‘s Katrina Law and Pretty Little Liars‘ Drew Van Acker make up the rest of Rourke’s thinly-characerised, not-by-the-book team, giving a designer-discount Fast and Furious vibe to proceedings while Without a Trace‘s Marianne Jean-Baptiste and NCIS: Los Angeles Bar Paly (as police captain and gangster’s moll respectively) have small scenes that are barely worth them being there.
Another example of a potentially edgy-cable show squeezed into a safety-first network template and ultimately paying the price, this Training Day can’t be all things to all people, however much it’s obviously trying. Some of the premiere’s problems could be down to the obstacles of any pilot – laying the groundwork and ground rules, something further episodes may improve upon. But for this Training Day to pass the popularity test it’ll need to decide exactly where it wants to point its moral rudder and demographic hopes. Social commentary… action-adventure… conspiratorial back-story… these things rarely sit well together unless they’re crafted in a far more competent mix and so far, this is a series that’s a prime case of being up on charges of identity theft.
Training Day is being shown on Thursday screenings on CBS. There’s no news of other territories as yet.