Review: Harsh Times

This is yet another David Ayer story about a murderous psycho with one hand in crime and the other in law enforcement.

Harsh Times
Photo: MGM

From the creators of Training Day comes Training Day 2, err, Harsh Times, yet another David Ayer story about a murderous psycho (Christian Bale) with one hand in crime and the other in law enforcement. A former Army Ranger traumatized by his combat duty in Afghanistan who’s determined to work for the LAPD, Bale’s Jim spends his days and nights driving around his South Central hometown with a diminutive sidekick (Freddy Rodríguez’s Mike) who slowly learns to fear his partner, a setup that unavoidably conveys the sense that Ayer—here directing as well as writing—is simply rehashing his 2001 hit with a more pronounced Latino flavor. Training Day, however, was never as funny as this saga of tortured machismo, gun-running, and robbery, which boasts dialogue—endlessly punctuated by “dude,” “ese,” “cholo,” and slang like “lettuce” (for money)—that’s as laughable as its frenzied scenarios are ludicrous. Jim sticks a turkey baster full of vinegar into his penis in order to pass the drug test at his Department of Homeland Security job interview, sexually intimidates his ex-girlfriend and then robs her current beau at gunpoint, and pines for his lover Marta (Tammy Trull), whom he wants to import from Mexico and marry. Meanwhile, Mike gets drunk instead of searching for the job his nagging lawyer girlfriend Sylvia (Eva Longoria) demands he get if he wants to continue enjoying her tattoo-framed booty. Everything’s obviously headed for violent disaster from the moment Jim suffers his first schizo freak-out, visualized with jaggedly edited green-yellow montages. But aside from Bale’s full-throttle embodiment of the nattily dressed, completely loco Jim, the only thing holding together the loopily overwrought Harsh Times is its unintentional humor, which peaks right around the point that Mike, discovering that Jim has surreptitiously smuggled tons of pot across the border in their car—and thus is clearly a lunatic primed to explode at any moment—exclaims, “That’s a serious breach of the homey code!” Couldn’t have said it sillier myself.

 Cast: Christian Bale, Freddy Rodríguez, Eva Longoria, Tammy Trull, Adriana Millan, Terry Crews, J.K. Simmons  Director: David Ayer  Screenwriter: David Ayer  Distributor: MGM  Running Time: 119 min  Rating: R  Year: 2005  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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