DVD review: Harsh Times

We’ve all had destructive friends, the kind of person who’s just slightly off center and always getting into trouble. A force of nature personality, where it takes everything of your being to not get swept up into their tidal wave of destruction. At the same time you can’t quite bring yourself to cut ties, even knowing what you know, because at times you see the other side of your friend, the side which makes you care for them in the first place — the caring one, the thoughtful one, the kind one, et cetera.

In writer/director David Ayer’s Harsh Times, he’s created that very dynamic between Mike Alonzo (Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodriguez) and ex-Army Ranger Jim Davis (Christian Bale). The two are old friends from their days growing up in South Central Los Angeles.

Davis is the unstable one. He’s caring and sensitive one minute towards his Mexican girlfriend and then speaking gangster talk the next with his pal Mike as they cruise around Los Angeles. Both are trying to go legit by locking down jobs. Jim with the LAPD and Mike attempts to hand our resumes. But like all good things, their plans go awry and the two spend their days getting drunk, stoned and dabling in petty crimes.

Ayer has been down this road before with the overtly similar Training Day. It’s interesting that he would choose to essentially make a retread, but replace dirty cops with dirty lowlife criminals. Had it not been for Christian Bale’s ability to make Davis a compassionate yet truly terrifying individual this movie might not be worth watching. Ever second he’s on screen Bale manages to create layers of Davis. He’s polite and subordinate to higher ups, managing to be manipulative in ever phase of his life, giving people exactly what they want to see. It’s all a ruse, but as the plot boils down to it’s violent conclusion, one can’t help but feel sorrow for Jim Davis.

With this role Christian Bale has proven that if he’s not the best actor working in Hollywood today, then he is certainly the most interesting one. He’s become the kind of actor we all expected Edward Norton to become after his string of early successes with American History X and Primal Fear. Unfortunately, Norton has never quite become that actor. Thankfully Christian Bale has become someone audiences can’t and shouldn’t take their eyes off of.

You want to grab Jim Davis or tell his friends to get him some help. By the time they realize he does need help it’s too late and the movie has reached it’s devestating climax. Harsh Times is certainly better than Training Day, but by no means a movie worth seeking out, unless you love violent soaked tragedies about friendship and the destruction loyalty can cause.

Extras: Nothing much in the way of extras. 13 deleted scenes and a commentary track by director David Ayer. Deleted scenes add some depth to the story and are interesting if only you truly liked the film.

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