Harsh Times (2006)
Starring: Christian Bale, Freddy Rodríguez, Eva Longoria, Chaka Forman, Tammy Trull, J.K. Simmons
Directed by: David Ayer
After a string of successes, including Batman Begins, The Prestige, Rescue Dawn, and 3:10 to Yuma, I decided it time to check out the other recent Christian Bale movie that no one talks about, Harsh Times, to see if he could truly do no wrong (Bale was even good in the otherwise dull The New World). I now write this review in case any of you had the same idea.
DON’T DO IT!!! I implore you, there’s no reason to watch this terrible, terrible movie. I don’t care how big a Christian Bale fan you are, just continue on with your blissful, Harsh Timesless life. It will only help your Bale fandom. It’s not so much that Bale is bad in the movie (although… it seems that playing a Hispanic-influence white wannabe thug might be the one role outside of the Welshman’s range), as much as it’s a bad movie that no level of performance could rescue. The same goes for his co-star Freddy Rodríguez, who really can’t do much to rescue the B movie gangsta crap he’s given in this one. It’s not even Eva Longoria‘s fault, no matter how much we’d like it to be, as she’s not in the movie all that much.
Instead, the fault seems to lie in the hands of writer/director David Ayer, who apes movies such as Falling Down and his own Training Day, following the mistrials and rambling descent into madness by Bale’s frustrated ex-Army Ranger Jim Luther Davis as he and his buddy Mike Alonzo (Rodríguez) waste their time around Los Angeles instead of looking for jobs. Along the way, they do a bunch of dumb shit that is supposed to be both symptomatic of Jim’s inability to cope with his wartime experiences and also, I’m guessing, cool in an outlaw-type fashion, but instead come off as incredibly annoying and wildly exploitive. It’s the kind of movie that wannabe thug teens might worship, put in rotation with movies like Menace II Society and Kids for all the wrong reasons.
The movie essentially follows Jim and Mike almost exclusively, with a lot of scenes of them in cars, or strung out on couches. Which could be alright if they both weren’t so aggressively useless and hateful. I could not care less about their adventures, or how things would work out for them, and by the time the movie tried to add some excitement and pathos to the story, I just wanted it all to be over and for things to work out as poorly as possible for the protagonist. That can’t be what Ayer wanted, could it?