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Harsh Times More at IMDbPro »

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279 out of 347 people found the following review useful:

Christian Bale Gives A Blistering Performance - One of the Best On Screen Characters Ever Depicted On Film

9/10
Author: gavmills930 from United Kingdom
21 August 2006

First off, let me start by saying that I have never been bothered to write a review on IMDb. Although a fan of the site, I skim read reviews, often not having the patience to read the long essays that over-excited people write. However, I feel it is my obligation to express my opinion on this movie because it is one of a short list of movies that has made an impact on me emotionally.

I honestly believe that Christian Bale's performance in this movie was truly outstanding. If Denzel Washington can be rewarded for best actor in Training Day then Bale deserves his just rewards for Harsh Times. His portrayal of Jim David, an ex-army ranger, is coated in layers of emotional complexity and psychological deterioration. His ability to transform from an honourable, courteous officer to a full blown psycho and then back to loving boyfriend and 'amigo' is truly terrifying.

Sharing much screen time with Bale is a relatively unknown Freddy Rodriquez. He seems to feed off Bale's character and forces the audience to feel sympathy for him as a childhood friend who can't abandon his crazy best friend. A cross between Benny Blanco (Carlito's Way) and Ethan Hawke's character in Training Day, Rodriquez shows his ability in mixing comedic moments up with emotional intensity and apathy. His friendship with Bale is so unpredictable that as an audience, you find yourself laughing with them at one moment and the next on the verge of tears.

David Ayer has created a dark, moody portrayal of South Central Los Angeles, very similar to that of Training Day. It's a bleak, bustling environment where the main characters encounter drug dealers, gang leaders, prostitutes etc. What I found interesting was the way Ayer introduced the beautiful barren Mexican landscape amongst the roughness of LA life. This was to show the personal crossroads Bale's character experiences. The choice whether to stay in Mexico and marry his girlfriend, or to satisfy his sadistic urge to kill and work for the drugs squad in Columbia.

It's frustrating that Harsh Times will not get the box office recognition it deserves. However, through word of mouth and DVD release, I am certain that this will become a sleeper classic, in the style of Shawshank Redemption. I feel that Christian Bale's performance is as mesmerising as De Niro's Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver or Edward Norton's character in American History X. His raw approach to the role makes for a startling but very rewarding experience.

Overall Verdict: A tour de force of a movie with fantastic performances, stylish direction and an after-taste which will stay with you for a very long time. Not since American History X has a movie affected me on such an emotional level. Christian Bale deserves more credit. Much more.....

9.5/10

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127 out of 158 people found the following review useful:

Powerful Performance

9/10
Author: Sally Martin from Ireland
4 September 2006

Went to see the movie last night without knowing what it was about. To say that I enjoyed the movie from start to finish would be an understatement! I thought Christian Bale was absolutely fantastic, his depiction of an ex soldier trying to get back to "normal" ie get a job, have a relationship, while slowly (or maybe not so slowly!)slipping into mayhem & madness was Oscar winning material. He was at war with himself on a downward spiral and bringing any semblance of normality with him. I know I certainly felt I was grabbed by the throat and brought along for the ride. It's not often a movie is so scary and so sad at the same time. I loved it!

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107 out of 129 people found the following review useful:

Soldiers of the Apocalypse…Harsh Times

8/10
Author: jaredmobarak from buffalo, ny, usa
12 November 2006

Harsh Times is an intense film. Keeping you on the edge of finding out how crazy events can become seems to be a staple in the writing of David Ayer. He penned the script for the gritty cop drama Training Day and saw its star, Denzel Washington, win an Oscar for his portrayal of the conflicted beast at its core. With his new film, and directorial debut, Ayer has crafted another street drama about people who themselves don't know whether they are the good guys, the bad guys, or both. Don't be surprised if his work soon creates a second starring Academy Award, as Christian Bale is a powerhouse. The raw acting talents of this Brit are unfathomable and thankfully his rejuvenation of Batman has finally allowed those chops to be shown on screen in challenging roles for the masses.

Crossing between being the soldier/sir, yes sir type of man with the gangbanger of his past could be a difficult thing to believe for a viewer. Bale deftly changes personas as if he was flipping a switch. His ability to go from crazed lunatic to apologetic, tear-filled and beaten man is amazing to watch. Having a great up-and-coming actor to play off of is a plus as Freddy Rodriguez shines in much the same way Ethan Hawke did in Training Day—playing the straight man whose life is finally on the up and up before his love for a friend drags him back down. The rapport between them is believable and effective in showing us what could be. One of their friends, played nicely by Chaka Forman, gets it right when he says how Bale's Jim used to be so mellow. His fits of rage and confusion come upon him with no warning, showing us what war did to him. Being in the trenches created a man without a moral code, one who needs to not think, but just do. If one's capacity to kill was always there, he/she could probably live their lives being able to turn it off when needed. However, if you were not wired that way to begin with, the stark contrast could fry their mind into not knowing what it should do. Harsh Times shows us that fall into delusion and self-loathing to the point where thinking doesn't factor in at all, action becomes reflex and reflex becomes life. Unfortunately society is not of the shoot first variety like that of a warzone.

Ayer has done himself well with this directorial effort. He gets great performances throughout and in multiple languages. Even Eva Longoria was adequate and not a blemish on the film as I initially felt she might be. Ayer shows us all facets of his characters helping to enhance the story. We are privy to the past history of all involved and are allowed to understand each person's motives. Seeing the paradise that Bale has in Mexico adds immensely to the conflict going on inside of him as well. The performance by Tammy Trull is paramount to this fact and her undivided love for her broken man is beautifully expressed. This relationship makes his actions that much more powerfully unfathomable. We have monsters among us in this world and while they can be utilized as a necessity for the survival of our culture, hopefully when their jobs are done they can be helped to assimilate back into society without their ambivalence being able to hurt the ones they love.

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183 out of 286 people found the following review useful:

Training Day... but with a better script, better actors, and a better director

9/10
Author: boba1_fett1 from Canada
13 September 2005

An intense film, that FEELS a lot like Training Day, but with more of a gritty approach, and with actors who seem actually believable... which makes sense since it's based on the real life experiences of the director/writer and people he knows.

Rodriguez (who was at the World Premiere) and Bale give stellar performances. Rodriguez, if this film is well distributed, will get huge exposure and will likely go far. His performance was incredible, believable, and emotional. Bale continues to show that he's one of the best in Hollywood. Sure, he's playing a slightly psychotic, mentally unstable fellow, similar to a number of previous roles he's played, but he does it so well.

Ayer has improved as a writer, and considering this is his feature film debut as a director, he did fantastically. His knowledge as a director shone through in the Q&A after the film. He also made sure to mention the Cannes labs, where he worked on the script for this film, and how it helped him improve as a writer.

Go see it. It's intense, well written, incredibly performed, and is a thinker of a film.

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87 out of 114 people found the following review useful:

great acting, very human story

8/10
Author: XAEEM from United Kingdom
19 August 2006

I'm glad i haven't seen training day or i'd feel compelled to compare. This film feels real, and the director really makes you feel like you are actually IN the film, in the situation with the characters. You feel part of their lives and start feeling FOR them. Freddy Rodriguez plays a kinda good guy with a weak will and gets roped into anything Jim(Bale) gets him into. His relationship with Eva longoria is something people can identify with. Christian Bale is mind blowing from the moment the film begins (pun intended) he is very believable as Jim and is one crazy SOB in this film, he pulls off the dialogue, attitude and body language really well, You just couldn't tell he was a Brit, let alone welsh. his acting prowess is impeccable. Miles away from the Bruce Wayne he played recently.

All in all, its a good film, i won't give away the story, though its nothing extraordinary but it gives us the feel of how life is in crime ridden cities where people fight for survival every single day.

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79 out of 100 people found the following review useful:

Excellent movie, far more powerful than one would guess

10/10
Author: sir-montag from United States
17 November 2006

I went to see Harsh Times knowing little about it aside from that Christian Bale was in it.

It's hard to go into detail without spoiling the plot, but it's an excellent story of two friends down on their luck, one of them an ex-soldier with some serious post-traumatic stress syndrome.

All the acting is top-notch, and knowing people very similar to the ones in the movie, I would say that it is spot-on, which is a very hard thing for any actor to nail.

A lot of the time when you watch a movie with Brad Pitt in it, you're just watching Brad Pitt be Brad Pitt. As cool as he is, this tends to spoil the movie and any suspense of disbelief.

I've seen a lot of Christian Bale movies, and even so, I forgot that it was Christian Bale throughout most of the entire movie. That is an incredibly impressive thing indeed.

The movie may not get an Oscar, but it is done superbly well, and Christian Bale is quite possibly the next Anthony Hopkins.

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87 out of 123 people found the following review useful:

Christian Bale is spectacular!

7/10
Author: nhayashigawa from United States
9 January 2006

This is a pretty good movie. It's really intense and disturbing. The pairing of Freddy Rodreiguez and Christian Bale definitely covers the wide range of emotions that the duo go through during the film. I won't be too specific, but Bale really pulls off a haunting portrayal of a guy who is really messed up, but never fails when he needs to expose what little shred of humanity that still remains. Rodreiguez plays opposite Bale and plays well off of him and vice versa. Eva Longoria makes an appearance in this film and that's always something to look forward to. I recommend this movie, but it isn't for the squeamish. It's a lot like Training Day, (also written by director David Ayer) and I'll go as far as to say that it's actually better.

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74 out of 107 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding...

9/10
Author: James Dobbin from United Kingdom
27 August 2006

The plot in this film is somewhat like an aircraft that spends a puzzlingly long time taxiing along the runway before it finally gets airborne. Even then, it is not until the final part that the joystick is forcefully pulled back, and with a great whoosh we are up for some very showy loop-the-loops and victory rolls. HARSH TIMES is both sophisticated and ambitious, with intriguing character development. Despite the slow start that had me, an avid fan of Christian Bale, shifting uncomfortably in my seat, it is never the less witty, ingenious, and a pleasure to watch. Christian Bale undoubtedly stole the show.

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104 out of 175 people found the following review useful:

Wow!

10/10
Author: BrotherNumpsie from England
18 August 2006

Saw Harsh Times today, mostly because Bale is gorge! and was blown away. Just one problem, and that is the way Freddy and Christians characters talk: "Wassup dawg/dude/homie", it's grating and annoying. There are some truly shocking, out of the blue moments, and not once is this movie clichéd or predictable. I was disappointed that there were only 20 people at the most in the cinema, especially as it's the first day. The way the ending is shot is very impressive and moving, and stayed with me for ages afterwards. There is a lot of unnecessary swearing, but I suppose that is the way Jim and Mike would speak. Also, Jim is supposed to be 26 but looks a lot older. I was so impressed and can't wait for the DVD, although I won't be surprised the second time round. I recommend Harsh Times very highly; it is emotional, violent, realistic, hilarious, thought provoking, traumatic, inspired, entertaining, gripping, original and shocking.

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57 out of 85 people found the following review useful:

Unflinching film set in L.A. which informs and tests your ideas of the world we live in

7/10
Author: Joe from United Kingdom
27 August 2006

Christian Bale is an actor who is never orthodox. His string of films have in general been breaking moulds and testing his own ability, and more often than not you leave the cinema thinking that you had seen something special.

Having revived the Batman series and out-Lynched David Lynch in "The Machinist", he has now tackled the troubled life of a war veteran who is trying to find a job in order to be able to settle down so he can marry and bring over his wife from Mexico. Alongside him is his best friend who is also in the same situation of finding a job but this time in order to satisfy his frustrated working wife. As always nothing goes as easily to plan.

The two lead actors end up struggling through job rejections, life, gangs, drugs and drinks, and also the struggle to move on from their carefree lifestyle when they were young. Responsibility is a difficult option for the pair of them. The problem is exacerbated by Christian Bale's character's flashbacks and hauntings to the war, which add a frightening and unstable edge to his character.

The film overall takes us on an unpredictable journey following the two men questioning ourselves what we would do if we were in their shoes, and watching the pair of them acting and opting for what they do can be unsettling. Acting is great, direction is interesting and you will not be disappointed. If you like Crash, then in some ways this is in the same vein but not alike to the movie. I thoroughly was interested and enjoyed this movie, and if you want a thought-provoking film then this is definitely for you.

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