Review By: Staff
It's always interesting to watch a film about the government hiring someone who they know is a proven sociopath to work for their special ops division.
In Harsh Times, an honorably discharged special operations soldier from the Iraq war, Jim Luther Davis (Christian Bale) has returned to California in hopes of becoming an LAPD officer, and bringing his Mexican girlfriend Marta (Tammy Trull) over the border so that they can get married. Jim has agreed to help his best friend Mike Alonzo (Freddy Rodriguez), who’s also on the job hunt because he's promised his lawyer girlfriend, Sylvia (Eva Longoria), that his days as an unemployed moocher are counted. This all changes when Jim finds out that the LAPD has rejected him and he will have to wait to marry his beloved Marta.
From here on it’s a downward spiral of self-destruction for the short-tempered Jim. He persuades Mike to put off his job hunt, get high and drunk with him, get into a fight with a Mexican gang, and drive around LA trying to sell a stolen "piece."Â They leave various callbacks from so called employers on Mike's answering machine so that Sylvia will think he's been working hard trying to get a job. Needless to say this doesn't turn out well. Throughout the film we get the distinct feeling that Jim is psychotic, but one figures he's just become desensitized by the war, and isn’t really a bad guy.
In the middle of his crazy drunk and high antics, Jim gets a call from the feds, who eventually ask him to become a special ops agent in really dangerous parts of Colombia. Jim, who wanted to work in Los Angeles so that he could bring Marta over the border, agrees, but his mental health clearly begins to deteriorate. After getting Mike to abandon his hot girlfriend and stable life, they grab their friend Toussant (Chaka Forman), and head south of the border to Marta's Mexican village, where Jim ultimately loses whatever marbles he has left, and scares the hell out of even his best friend, Mike.
Far from being another Training Day, this film directed by David Ayer takes the smart, crazy guy manipulating his weaker minded partner in crime formula and totally loses it somewhere in the middle. There comes a point in a film like this where one just stops believing what is happening on the screen. Yes, there are major screw-ups like Mike and Jim in real life. Yes, there are men who have beautiful, perfect girlfriends, but will still disrespect them to go hang out with their friends. Yes, there are guys who will watch their best friend go completely psychotic, and still go on little dangerous escapades with him, even after he's tried to murder them! Wait, no.
That's completely bizarre, and after sitting
Don't get me wrong, Harsh Times isn't a bad film. It's mildly amusing to watch Christian Bale in his attempts to fool the system, and to laugh when the guys leave phony messages on Sylvia's machine. The commentary on the government hiring loopy guys to kill for a living is also interesting, if not a little unnerving.
Christian Balechannels his American Psycho days as he plays this crazy ex-soldier, and does a darn good job. Yet Freddy Rodriguez doesn't quite follow suit. His performance is unspectacular, and we really don't sympathize with him at all during any point in the film. Opposingly, Tammy Trull as Marta was actually quite moving with her all-Spanish dialogue. The DVD includes deleted scenes and director's commentary.
Movie Grade: B-
DVD Features Grade: B-
Overall Grade: B-