Reboots and remakes are all the rage, and the news that CBS would be bringing a new version of Training Day to the small screen wasn't a huge surprise. The TV series is days away from premiering, and viewers will soon discover that Training Day is no typical remake. In fact, the show is a sequel to the 2001 movie, and Training Day is an explosive drama that easily stands on its own.
The pilot - fittingly titled "Apocalypse Now" - picks up 15 years after the events of the movie, and the LAPD is still reeling from the aftermath of Alonzo's actions, with some of the veteran cops having become seriously jaded by the crime wave. Detective Frank Rourke (Bill Paxton) leads the Special Investigation Section, and his methods have led the higher-ups at the LAPD to believe that he's become a criminal himself in his attempts to catch bad guys. Young detective Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) is sent in by the LAPD to partner with (and spy on) Frank.
Kyle joins Frank, Rebecca Lee (Katrina Law), and Tommy Campbell (Drew Van Acker) at the S.I.S. and soon discovers that he'll have to cross a lot of lines and fire a lot of shots if he wants to keep his cover intact. An unexpected connection between Frank and Kyle's pasts complicates the operation, meaning Kyle must choose between meticulously following orders and bending rules himself to solve a very personal mystery. He just needs to survive all the shootouts, explosions, and fights in the meantime.
Training Day was developed for the small screen by Training Day movie director Antoine Fuqua and Jerry Bruckheimer, so it shouldn't come as a shock to viewers that the action sequences feel cinematic in scale. Luckily, nothing feels like a remake of the film, and in fact, if Training Day didn't have the same title and Fuqua attached, the show wouldn't necessarily feel like it was a sequel to anything.
The early exposition touches on events from the movie, but viewers won't need to go into the very first episode with a working knowledge of everything that happened, and nobody really needs to watch the movie to understand what's going on. The premise is an effective sequel to the plot of the movie without turning the characters into Denzel Washington 2.0 and Ethan Hawke 2.0. The Training Day series is no typical remake or retread; it stands on its own, and that may be enough to win an audience.
Bill Paxton and Justin Cornwell's performances firmly anchor all the awesomely crazy action and spontaneous shootouts. Paxton turns what could have been a cartoonish villain into a nuanced character who clearly knows that he's crossing lines and can't quite trust Kyle, but still doesn't let that stop his unconventional ways of fighting crime. Although Cornwell is more subdued as Kyle, his performance creates a character that is somehow both remarkable and relatable. Together, Paxton and Cornwell create a somewhat uncomfortable camaraderie that is compelling to watch.
Training Day isn't quite as in-depth with characters that aren't Frank or Kyle early on. Luckily, it won't take too long for the show to develop Rebecca and Tommy into more multidimensional characters. If you like the show for the action and premise but aren't quite sold on the characters, I'd recommend watching at least a few episodes to see the four members of the S.I.S. settle into their roles as a group. Katrina Law and Drew Van Acker have more to do as weeks go by, and it's worth sticking around to see.
The biggest problem for Training Day moving forward may be with the required suspension of disbelief. The shootouts and car chases and cinematic action sequences are great, but I have to argue that some of Frank's most significant departures from law and order are just hard to believe. Anybody who has ever watched a cop and/or legal drama may have a difficult time accepting that Frank and Co. are ever even a little bit successful with their methods of arresting criminals and gathering evidence. There's no way that most of what they do should stand up even in a fictional and corrupt court; Training Day may need to find a way to balance Frank's method of fighting crime with actually putting bad guys away in non-lethal manners.
This isn't a perfect show, and the characters will all need to develop further if we're supposed to invest in their journeys. That said, Training Day is a high octane thriller that jams so much emotional and action-packed intensity into an hour of television that you may need recovery time to come down after each episode. There's definitely room for improvement, but the coming weeks should be a fun ride.