Harsh Times

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Harsh Times
Review (8.5/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Harsh Times is the story of two lifelong buddies, Jim David (Christian Bale) and Mike Alvarez (Freddy Rodriguez) who are both looking for jobs but spend their time driving around Los Angeles, drinking, smoking weed and causing trouble. Jim has just returned from a tour of duty as an American soldier and he is haunted by things that he saw and did while he was fighting the war on terror. He has hopes of getting in with the LAPD and bringing his Mexican girlfriend to Los Angeles to marry her but eventually lands a job with the Department of Homeland Security. Mike is also desperate to get a job so he can get his girlfriend Sylvia (Eva Longoria) off his back. He also lands, what he feels, is a dream job. Things seem to be going great for the boys but they just can't accept the fact that they have both got jobs and it is time to settle down and stop acting like young punks. They have to continue driving around and getting themselves in too much trouble until they find themselves in a situation they can no longer handle. Before they know it, all hell breaks loose and Jim and Mike find themselves in way over their heads and definitely in some harsh times.

I have to admit, I hadn't even heard of this movie before the Toronto Film Festival. In fact, I was trying to find out a bit about the movie and it is not even listed on RottenTomatoes.com. The movie is written by David Ayer (and the first movie he has directed), the same man who wrote Training Day. In many ways, Harsh Times is similar to Training Day in that it is the story of two dudes driving about L.A. and getting themselves in too much trouble. I would liken the Christian Bale character to Denzel's and Freddy Rodriguez to Ethan Hawke. Probably the one big difference is the Bale character is even crazier than Denzel's character was in Training Day, if that is even possible. Bale absolutely owns this role. Again, playing the psychotic, temperamental character that he has played in more than one movie, Bale is simply outstanding in Harsh Times. Just so believable, so real and so scary. You hope that people like Jim David do not exist in this world but the fact is, they do and Bale nails it to a tee. To be quite honest, although Bale is sure to receive all the accolades for this movie, Freddy Rodriguez is equally impressive in his role as Mike Alvarez. He plays the best friend who knows he shouldn't be where he is and doing what he is doing but just doesn't have the wherewithal to get the hell out. At least when he considers it, it is all too late.

Harsh Times is an intensely riveting movie that is supported by exceptional performances by an excellent cast. As I said, Bale and Rodriguez are an outstanding duo and the story, despite, in many ways, being heartbreaking is all too real. Although Harsh Times is probably not a movie for everyone (it is an extremely violent movie), if you liked Training Day, you are sure to love Harsh Times. One of the most frighteningly real and all too depressing movies I have seen in quite some time but at the same time, a movie that will leave you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

My only other comment about this movie is more of a question I suppose - do people really drink and drive like they did in Harsh Times? I know way too many people have drinks and then drive (without a drink in their hand) but drinking while you are driving? I just wonder because I saw someone actually doing this last week and now in this movie, they drove around drinking beer like it was bottled water. Why, just why? I just don't get it. I think the drinking and driving probably disturbed me more than all the guns and violence in this movie.

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