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Overall Rating
3.51

Awesome: 24.62%
Worth A Look43.08%
Average: 10.77%
Pretty Bad: 1.54%
Total Crap: 20%

5 reviews, 35 user ratings


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Harsh Times
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by brianorndorf

"The streets are fine, just squeezing a story out of nothing hurts this film"
3 stars

The scent of peril and brotherhood is in the air in the lukewarm “Harsh Times.” If you can stomach Christian Bale attempting to act like a Mexican gangbanger, there’s a nice mix of “Training Day” leftovers to sift through in this frustratingly uneven, but still quite vivid motion picture.

Jim (Christian Bale) is an Iraq War vet unable to find the employment with the LAPD that was promised when he returned home. Angry and bitter, Jim hooks up with his friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez), another vet bullied by his overbearing girlfriend (Eva Longoria), to find a job. Suited up, and with the whole day to play with, Jim and Mike head out on the streets, soon getting caught up in drug and weapon deals, job interviews, and assorted border havoc that keeps them from focusing in on their plans for friendship and the future.

Writer David Ayer found tremendous critical and box office success with his script for “Training Day.” The gritty tale of corruption and ludicrous street justice put Ayer on the Hollywood map, so it’s hard to blame the guy for trying to recreate the same magic in his directorial debut, “Harsh Times.”

“Times” beats the same streets as “Training.” Ayer knows the topography of Los Angeles like the back of his hand, and almost casually takes Jim and Mike on a tour of the criminal underbelly of the hellish city. “Times” glides effortlessly when it settles down to observe the slacker day of danger these two ex-soldiers are engaged in, throwing away their shot at employability in an effort to maintain a bond that is being erased by adulthood and responsibility.

Things turn ugly not only quickly, but constantly for Jim and Mike, and Ayer dreams up a consistent run of back alley mischief for the duo to navigate. The performances from Rodriguez and Bale help to nudge the tension, fear, and paranoia; that is, if you can swallow Bale as a slang-throwin’, wannabe Mexican gangster. An incredibly versatile actor, Bale meets his performance limits with Jim, though the actor does achieve the necessary aggression and horror the character is defined by.

Ayer has leanings in the opening of the picture to explore Jim and Mike’s troubles finding their psychological center after their tours in Iraq. Jim is consumed by the violence he inflicted during his time in the military, but all we get of this emotional crevasse are fleeting glimpses of his nightmares. Ayer bookends the picture with Jim’s psychotic outbursts, and since the effort wasn’t made to layer this extreme behavior throughout the picture, it renders this crucial character point moot. Jim’s rage is so unattended by Ayer, the scenes slip into a feeling of screenplay mechanics, counteracting the slack, free-form appeal of the film.

“Harsh Times” certainly wins points for being a vivid evocation of Los Angeles criminal life; I only wish Ayer had stuck with the almost improvisational feeling of the film’s midsection for the whole shebang. Only there does the claustrophobic threat come to life in ways Ayer is truly gifted at creating.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12776&reviewer=404
originally posted: 11/10/06 17:49:32
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/30/09 Reiners the best movie ever. my favorite 5 stars
10/15/09 Abhishek Chakraborty Must see once. I'm serious...starts off ordinary...OMG but what a powerful last half. 4 stars
12/15/08 mr.mike Requires patience , but for once Bale lives up to his hype: he is phenomenol. 4 stars
12/06/08 PAUL SHORTT A HEAVY HANDED, FOUL MOUTHED FILM, BOTH PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY VIOLENT 1 stars
5/11/08 Jack Sommersby Bale is searingly brilliant in this first-rate film. 4 stars
7/18/07 Shocker Milwaukee My favorite movie of all time. 5 stars
6/28/07 Adam G Loved it.I'm Sure a lot of people can relate. 5 stars
6/18/07 Alyssa! This film will kill brain cells. It is trippy shit yo'! 1 stars
4/23/07 Robbo-UK Beautiful intelligent study of mental illness, well acted and directed. 5 stars
4/20/07 Perplankton Gibbons Anything less than 5 is unacceptable. Nasty 1223, your really dumb, read between the lines. 5 stars
4/16/07 Kevin One of my favorite movies of the year, Christian Bale needs to win an oscar 5 stars
4/03/07 AJ Muller Intense,moving flick with stellar acting.And Ursic,I'm from CA,we DO talk this way,sorry. 4 stars
3/29/07 Luke True, it's a little too long w/o much of a story but Bale is so freaking good you wont care 4 stars
3/25/07 Amanda this movie is absolutely riveting. Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez are amazing! 5 stars
3/17/07 Krishna Visceral, intense. Watch the flick, not the blab that's greg's "critique-without-a-cause". 5 stars
3/14/07 Vince Another great film the Oscar people ignored 5 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Rambling plot frustates, but Bale helps us hold on. 3 stars
1/29/07 Wiseman The plot dosent stay on track, makes u keep thinking somthing is gonna happen..nothingDoes. 1 stars
1/08/07 nasty1223 this movie made me want to yak all over the place!!! horrible 1 stars
11/23/06 Tiffany Losco Wasnt my favorite movie, but it was ok. 4 stars
11/19/06 chase absolutely hilarious, christian bale does black comedy better than anyone else out there 5 stars
11/15/06 Brandon You think its an action movie but turns out to be 2 low lives smoking pot the whole movie. 1 stars
11/14/06 pat worst fucking movie in the world 1 stars
11/13/06 Melina bale is creepy! i couldn't believe how out of control his character was! 4 stars
11/12/06 Bryan The preview was the best part of this movie. i love action movies but this SUCKED. 2 stars
11/12/06 giselle Christian Bale is amazing. 5 stars
11/09/06 tommy shaw scary to think how many Jim,s are walking along side of us as a result of WAR Great movie 4 stars
11/08/06 rob NOT a Hollywood slick-pic: brace yourselves for a gritty, intense ride 4 stars
10/23/06 Krave This is LA hardcore street action. Better than Training Day! 5 stars
8/29/06 Gerard McCarthy Outstanding Film, Bale and Rodriguez riveting. 5 stars
8/25/06 Gary the films intensity jumps at you when you least expect it 4 stars
9/24/05 hunglikeanAnt Saw this in Toronto - Blew my Mind! Oscar Worthy 5 stars
9/13/05 terry foster who's on crack? a false note from beg to end... 1 stars
9/13/05 Sean Gilligan every bit as intense as training day. bale and rodriquez are INCREDIBLY powerful. 5 stars
8/24/05 Sparky THIS MOVIE KICKS ASS! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Nov-2006 (R)
  DVD: 13-Mar-2007

UK
  18-Aug-2006

Australia
  N/A



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