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Review: Harsh Times

11.08.2006

Set in South Central L.A., an ex-Army Ranger who is still shell-shocked from the crazy shit he did in the war, tries to join the LAPD in hopes that he can marry his Mexican girlfriend and bring her to the U.S. During this time, he hooks up with his life long buddy and they slowly return to their gang-banger days of drugs, alcohol and violence.

A crazy intense film with well developed main characters who are desperately trying to make a positive change in their lives, but who just can’t seem to keep it together long enough to succeed. Even though they keep getting lucky with each new opportunity, they somehow seem to muck it up along the way. That was probably the most frustrating part of the movie as you don't feel sorry for these guys because they just seem to bring this shit onto themselves. Half the time, I was whispering under my breath "Idiot" and "Why?" You want them to succeed but they just don't deserve it…but I guess that's what makes the movie so engaging.

Christian Bale plays Jim Davis, an Ex-Army Ranger who regresses back to his gang-banger ways. Is there any role this guy can't do? I mean it took awhile to get used to his mannerisms and his “home boy” lingo but that's because I was in awe of his acting and how he was actually pulling it off. Then we get another layer to this character with his mental decay as a human being. He experiences a slow transition throughout the film that develops into this monster which seems to emerge out of nowhere. His character does some really crazy shit...I'll never look at a Turkey baster the same way, again.

Freddy Rodriguez plays Mike Alonzo who is unemployed, the best friend to Bale's character and boyfriend to Eva Longoria's character. This was a much bigger role than we are used to seeing him in, but he was able to deliver a great performance. His love for his wife was clearly shadowed by his loyalty to his friend and yet you get a true sense of the commitment that he had and how he was really trying to make his wife happy. Unfortunately for Ms Longoria, her role as a mothering nag to her boyfriend didn’t come off too well. I hate to say this but her acting just doesn't translate well to the big screen, no matter how hot she looks.

For a first time director, David Ayer did a pretty good job! The overall feel he established with the mood and the shady characters, created this hostile environment that was ready to explode at any second. The pacing was great as it kept drawing you more into the characters. I also liked the way Ayer would present the psychotic episodes that Bale's character was experiencing. On the neg side, I was hoping for a wee bit more action to give this film some more umph. Also, I found that the film finished up too quickly and left you sort of hanging. I would have liked a bit more closure with the characters.

HARSH TIMES is a good character piece that is entertaining and dark. Once again, Christian Bale is brilliant and memorable while showing off something completely different with this character. If you’re into "Gangsta" flicks, you'll enjoy this one. I'm already looking forward to seeing what Ayer's next film will be.

-- by Tim Goernert

Source: JoBlo.com

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