As the screenwriter of
Training Day, Dark Blue, SWAT and now his directorial debut Harsh
Times, David Ayer has become the definitive chronicler of the seedy
underbelly of Los Angeles and the thin line between the criminals and the
Harsh Times is not
necessarily a better film than Training Day or Dark Blue (most
anything was better than SWAT), but it is in its way more disturbing.
The previous films, even if they surveyed the evil and violence that can go
down on the streets always did have a character or two that invested the
film with a moral center.
more ambiguous — and as such harder to watch but also harder to forget.
This is particularly
because of the work of Christian Bale, who hardwires this film with a
shocking hair-trigger amorality and detachment that is hard to shake.
Bale plays Jim, a Gulf War veteran who has returned home and fallen into a
life of drugs, petty crime and paranoia. We don't learn too much about
his time in duty — though we do see some of his nightmares of killing on
the battlefield. We also hear from old friends and acquaintances that
Jim was once a rather laid back sort.
There is nothing laid back
about Jim now though. He is a machine, constantly wired and looking
for trouble. He is completely shut off from his feelings and at the
same time ruled by them. We watch him going from place to place and
either causing or reacting to trouble. All the while he holds on to
the fantasy of becoming a policeman and marrying a woman from across the
Mexican border (Tammy Trull).
His best friend is Mike
(Freddy Rodriguez of Six Feet Under). Mike's upwardly mobile
girlfriend (Eva Longoria) has him looking for a job, but Mike would rather
hang out and party with Jim. However, he is not as hardcore about it
as Jim is, his friend keeps getting him into trouble to the point where he
can't ignore any more that he is losing track of reality. The film
tracks a period of several days when this break becomes more and more
apparent to his friend, but he still holds out hope due to a long-ago bond.
Harsh Times is a
fascinating look at the heart of darkness; a study of a man losing his soul
and falling deeper and deeper into the abyss. (3/07)
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Posted: March 13, 2007.