Harsh Times

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/08/2006

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 111 mins

Tense, gripping and enjoyable drama with a bravura performance from Bale and strong support from Rodriguez.

What’s it all about?
Harsh Times is written and directed by David Ayer, who wrote the thematically similar Training Day. Christian Bale stars as Jim, a dim-witted Gulf War veteran who is waiting for a job offer from the LAPD so that he can marry his Mexican girlfriend Marta (Tammy Trull) and bring her to the US.

Jim’s best friend is his childhood buddy Mike (Freddy Rodriguez, from Six Feet Under), whose successful lawyer wife, Sylvia (Eva Longoria, from Desperate Housewives) is insisting he gets a job. So Jim takes Mike on a job hunt around L.A only for the pair to land in a whole heap of trouble (of the guns, drugs and women variety), thanks to some monumentally bad decision making.

The Good
Bale is superb as the unstable, meatheaded Jim. His character is deeply unsympathetic (he’s like every beer-fuelled macho idiot you’ve ever met) but his performance is never less than compelling because you have no idea what he’s going to do next. As a result, practically every scene is thrillingly tense and the scene where he’s angrily speeding up the freeway is almost unbearable to watch.

Mike is equally unlikeable at first (he’s more than happy to fake job interviews so he can spend the day drinking beer) but Rodriguez gradually reveals Mike’s sympathetic qualities and you end up rooting for him to pull it together. There’s also a palpable chemistry between Rodriguez and Longoria and their scenes together are a definite highlight.

The Bad
The main problem with Harsh Times is that it’s incredibly unsubtle – as if you’d been shouted at by screenwriter for two hours. The script’s allusions aren’t too subtle either – basically, the film is like Of Mice and Men, only they’re both idiots.

Worth seeing?
In short, Harsh Times is worth seeing for its performances and for the incredibly tense atmosphere that Ayers sustains throughout the film.

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Content updated: 14/12/2019 23:36

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