The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Movie Review:
Training Day

Oct 22, 2001

Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke star in the film, Training Day, which is currently on its first run in movie theatres. The film is a quite realistic portrayal of the lives of two Los Angeles cops involved in the “war on drugs.” Hawke plays rookie cop Jake Hoyt, recently chosen to join a special unit under the command of Alonzo Harris, played by Washington.

Harris has the job of schooling Hoyt in the ways of the street. He is a street-hardened taskmaster, fond of lecturing Hoyt about how on the streets you’re either a wolf or a sheep, and he tells Hoyt, “You have to get a little dirt on you if you want to get anything done.” As it turns out Harris has plenty of dirt on him. Not only does he shake down drug users and small-time dealers to force them to inform on their suppliers, he also fakes search warrants to get into dealers’ homes to steal money from them.

As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that Harris – and the rest of the police department – are in fact “wolves,” knee-deep in what has become a lucrative and violent business, involved with the bigger players in the drug trade.

It is clear in the film that Harris’s superiors know what he’s doing and look the other way. When Hoyt raises objections to what Harris asks him to do, Harris assures him that his bosses know about it and will protect him. Harris also reminds Hoyt of the cops “code of silence” in case Hoyt has any intentions of going against him. As he tells Hoyt, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”

It is interesting that the film is shot in Los Angeles, a city which just recently experienced a scandal involving the elite anti-gang CRASH unit, in which the cops were shown to have acted as the biggest gang in L.A. The cops were shown to have been involved in drugs, prostitution, frame-ups and murders. In the real-life scandal, just as in the movie, the higher-ups and training officers were responsible for recruiting younger cops and showing them the dirty tricks of police involvement with the drug trade.

The movie has the requisite Hollywood happy ending, but before then it provides a realistic glimpse of police involvement in the drug trade.