Harsh Times (2006)
|Genre(s): Action / Crime / Drama|
|Weinstein Company || R - 116 minutes - $28.95 || March 13, 2007|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2007-03-12|
Writer(s): David Ayer (written by)
Cast: Christian Bale, Freddy Rodriguez, Eva Longoria, Chaka Forman, J.K. Simmons
Theatrical Release Date: November 10, 2006
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Plot: Jim Davis is a returning Iraq War veteran frustrated after getting turned down a job within the LAPD. Along with his best friend Mike Alonzo, they cruise through South Central Los Angeles getting into trouble while Davis’ days in the Middle East catch up and he starts losing all control.
I say it up front: Christian Bale is by far one of the best actors around. He can go from charismatic (though in an offbeat way) to psychotic in a matter of minutes and then return to an uneasy calmness in the next scene. It is only because of Christian Bale that Harsh Times worth watching, otherwise it’s just another grimy “real” street drama. I admit that it took time to adjust to his South Central/Latino accent after recently seeing him with a British(?) one in The Prestige, but after some a few scenes, I didn’t think about it again.
Freddy Rodriguez also does well opposite Bale as Mike, Jim’s best friend, looking for a job but gets sidetracked by the bad influence Jim as on him. For the first 90-minutes, he has little to do but his character pays off at the end. Although I wouldn’t go so far to say he holds his own against Bale, he still gives a solid performance and for me, he has become one of my favorite supporting actors out there.
Finally, Eva Longoria was severely underused. She plays Sylvia, Mike’s hot girlfriend who wants nothing more than for him to find a job and go into the next part of her life with him. However, she’s not fully utilized appearing in a handful of scenes and only for 10-minutes total. Maybe she took the role to work with Ayer but I had hoped for more...
Writer and director David Ayer’s debut as a director is alright but very hot and cold. He uses some interesting shots taking the camera outside of the car (used numerous times) and highlighting the streets of LA. Of course, he also makes use of the bullet-time effect (a la The Matrix) toward the end which breaks the flow some -- although to be fair, the entire movie still had issues.
Yet, it wasn’t how uneven Harsh Times was in regards to Ayer’s direction, it was the story itself. The movie by its nature is dark and has a character that’s even darker, I had a hard time being compelled to like anyone or be entertained in some form. Unlike Training Day, I at least could love to hate Alonzo (Oscar winner Denzel Washington) and therefore was more intrigued by that story more than the narrative here.
Harsh Times is only good for one thing: Christian Bale. Because the movie never really worked, it didn’t receive any attention but I can only hope that one day Bale will get recognized for being one of the best actors in this generation.
Given how it went in and out of theaters, the fact the disc has any features is surprising.
Writer/Director Commentary - Ayer sits down for the duration and gives a nice track mixing in filming techniques with bits of trivia on the set. This isn’t a great track yet still is laid back, easy to listen to and never gets dull or boring.
Deleted Scenes (12:38) - Seven scenes were cropped and while Bale is still great in them, they were not necessary. You can see where each would’ve been in the movie so it’s nice to imagine how much impact they could’ve had.
Last there’s a trailer gallery with a theatrical trailer and five TV spots (as well as the trailers available in Spanish).
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
Harsh Times is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 1.85 OAR, and has that grainy and dark look Ayer was going for. Because of this, I couldn’t see any dirt or scratches but given how recent it is, I wouldn’t expect anything less. On the small big screen, it looks fine but this kind of movie is not for everyone.
The film has the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (as well as Spanish) and it sounds fine but this is a dialogue heavy film with little else other than some ambient noise.
Harsh Times is an OK movie with an outstanding performance from Christian Bale. If it weren’t for him, I cannot see any reason to see this and I for one prefer an overrated Training Day instead of this. This isn’t a movie you’re going to watch more than once so if you’re inside Blockbuster (the only place you can rent it), then go ahead and check it, especially if you are a fan of Bale.