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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.88%
Worth A Look41.79%
Average: 10.45%
Pretty Bad: 1.49%
Total Crap: 22.39%

5 reviews, 37 user ratings

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Harsh Times
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by Greg Ursic

"Dude, call a script doctor stat, this one's critical!"
1 stars

As a member of an elite black ops unit in “Trashcanistan” Jim was a specialist in Search and Destroy missions and he was good at his job. Maybe a little too good… Now back on home turf Jim splits his time between night terrors, relaxing with his girlfriend, getting wasted and prepping to be one of the LAPD’s finest. When his plans to get onto the force run into a roadblock, Jim embarks on a mission of self-destruction and drags his best friends along for the ride.

I’ve read several reviews hailing this film as the “Taxi Driver” for the new millennia. While there may be vague similarities between Jim and Travis Bickle, any comparisons end there: I found virtually nothing in this mess that is worthy of recommending. Let’s start with my first pet peeve, white guys trying to sound ethnic: with the exception of Eminem and maybe Snow who I will begrudgingly tolerate, white guys should stay away from speech that makes them look and sound disingenuous. The overuse of terms like “Dawg” “Dude” “Homey” and “The Man” made the dialogue sound like a cross between a bad surfer flick and Damon Wayons’ “Homey the Clown” character from In Living Color. The clincher for me was Freddy Rodriguez invoking the “Homey Code”: maybe I’m just completely out of the loop, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could actually refer to such a code without his friends shooting him for sounding so like an idiot. While lousy dialogue isn’t enough to sink a film, a crappy plot also helps (or should I say hurts).

While I understand that Jim may have been a bit off-kilter before leaving for Afghanistan, I kept wanting to know what drove him over the edge. Sadly all we’re provided with are brief glimpses of his travails in the opening sequence that supposedly sent him off the rails. There’s also the matter of the plot “twists”, every one of which I had predicted ten minutes into the movie – there was not a single surprise, and I found myself literally groaning as story clumsily unfolded. Wait, I take that back, there was one device that was completely unpredictable due to its total lack of continuity within the story which was apparently intended to highlight the nature of violence of East LA., yet ends up being little more than misguided shock value. And now matter how you spin it, I cannot suspend disbelief long enough to believe that an unemployed stick of a stoner can snag a gorgeous lawyer girlfriend, especially when said slacker is Freddy Rodriguez and the babe attorney is Eva Longoria.

As far as performances go Bale, who is known for his intensity, deserves credit for making Jim a believable psychopath. The problem is that Bale may have done too good a job: Jim is such a remorseless unlikable scumbag, that I didn’t care about his situation or what happened to him – I just wanted it to happen quickly. Rodriguez meanwhile vacillates between emasculated weasel and toady, supplying the film with moments of comic relief whenever he tries to sound like a tough guy. Longoria on the other hand spends the majority of her screen time as a nagging harpy.

To say that I disliked Harsh Times would be an understatement: I found the plodding pace positively painful, hated the dialogue which was trite and repetitive and I didn’t feel invested in the characters in the slightest. This disaster is currently vying for the #1 spot on my Worst of the Year list. Harsh indeed.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/14/06 17:10:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/25/20 morris campbell boring take a pass on it 1 stars
5/01/19 Anne I lasted 20 minutes and some of that time I read these reviews! 1 stars
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
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
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  10-Nov-2006 (R)
  DVD: 13-Mar-2007



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