Harsh Times

Harsh Times

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            “Harsh Times” is a horrid movie. What was Christian Bale thinking? He had the choice to make any vanity project he wanted, but chose to produce and star in “Harsh Times,” a movie so bad that it managed to make it look like he had no acting talent at all. Not since the “wrestler” Kane decided to cast himself as an eye-removing, hook-wielding serial killer in the vomit-inducing “See No Evil” has the idea of a vanity project reveled so much poor judgment on the part of the vain one in question.


            In “Harsh Times” Bale stars as ex-army ranger named Jim Davis (no relation to the “Garfield” creator) who wants more than anything to become an LAPD cop. Jim is a horrible man who is abusive and unbalanced and should never be involved in nay job that lets him have a gun. He spends the bulk of the film driving around South Central L.A. shaking down criminals for fun, drinking, smoking pot, and cursing. Jim seems to have watched “Bad Lieutenant” one too many times. Freddy Rodriguez plays Jim’s best buddy Mike, who is mostly just along to watch Jim behave like an asshole, and act shocked when he goes over the line. Mike is also looking for a job at the behest of his wife Sylvia (Eva Longoria) who reasonably hates Jim, but Jim thinks it’s more fun to smoke pot and cruise than job hunt, so he often talks Mike into doing the former with him.


            Jim knows all the tricks of the trade. Like faking urine drug tests, and how to sell guns and drugs without calling attention to the fact that you’re an aspiring cop. Oh and he’s involved in the occasional shootout.


            Eventually and inexplicably, Jim is offered a job in Colombia as an army ranger. Jim thinks that he can use the opportunity to start a drug dealing business and shoot a bunch of people at the same time. He then drags Mike with him to Mexico (wha-??) where we meet his little-mentioned wife (Tammy Trull), whom he berates and threatens to kill. Then he tries to smuggle drugs back into the states, goes on a violent rampage, and… etc. etc. J.K. Simmons shows up too.


            In addition to being generally unpleasant, the film looks terrible. The photography looks as if they shot on the smoggiest days possible, and the editing is haphazard. Director David Ayer directs with a sledgehammer. The worst thing about “Harsh Times,” though, is watching a talented actor like Christian Bale earnestly recite likes like “I’m a soldier of the apocalypse, man,” and “Fuck you, God! You ain’t got the fuckin’ balls to take my ass!” It falls on Rodriguez to blurt out the gem “Dude, that was a serious violation of the homey code.”


            Perhaps Bale, having so effectively played the narcissistic killer Patrick Bateman in his American breakout film “American Psycho,” thought he could strike gold by playing another American narcissistic psychopath, only amplify his success and fame by amplifying the unpleasantness of his killer. “American Psycho” had powerful themes backing it up. “Harsh Times” does not.

             Had the film been a bit campier; had Bale mugged a little more or winked at the camera fro time to time, than “Harsh Times” would have been a glorious and trashy parody of itself. As it is, it’s just plain bad.

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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