‘Harsh Times’: A buzz kill of a movie

Fri, 11/17/2006 - 4:45pm
By: Michael Boylan

The man who wrote the script for the terrific “Training Day,” once again puts two people on the road in the dangerous neighborhoods of Los Angeles. This time, they aren’t cops. One is an Iraq War veteran, who is going more than a little crazy, and one is his best friend, a young Latino man looking for work so that his wife will get off his case.

Christian Bale plays Jim, the veteran and he is the star of the show. Bale is a tremendous actor and it seems impossible that he has been engaging audiences since he played the boy in “Empire of the Sun,” so many years ago. Like Denzel in “Training Day,” he carries the film and makes it watchable and while Freddy Rodriguez is very good, the performances can’t give much weight to the plot or make you care much about the film.

Both Jim and Mike are losers who have a hard time shedding their rough and tumble past. They still drink too much and do drugs and every now and then they find themselves in situations they should have avoided in the first place. For instance, they rob a guy and his gang after they come upon the unlucky pair leaving the home of Jim’s ex-girlfriend. Later they try to sell one of the guns they found and are witnesses to a brutal murder in a seedy looking bar. For two people looking to start leading the lives of responsible adults, they find trouble way too easily.

Things move at an odd pace in “Harsh Times.” One minute it is a fast-paced and intense thriller and the next minute it plays like Cheech and Chong without the jokes. The cast around the stars is good. “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria shows off her range as Mike’s girlfriend and Terry Crews, who is so great in “Everybody Hates Chris” brightens things up with a fun cameo as well.

Though there is substance abuse, there is little substance to “Harsh Times.” I’m not sure who the audience is and it fails as a film leading into the lucrative holiday season. It would have done better in a spot like “Running Scared,” a similar film released earlier this year.

“Harsh Times” isn’t bad, but why see this when there are so many better films to take in these days.


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