Jim Davis (Christian Bale, Batman Begins) is a former Ranger who wants more than anything to work in law enforcement. Going from interview to interview with his fellow unemployed best friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez, Poseidon), Jim kills time in between work by getting high and wreaking havoc in the streets of South Central, Los Angeles. Unfortunately, all those years in the military are starting to take a greater effect on Jim’s psyche and the nasty fun that the pair is having slowly spirals into something a lot more dangerous.
Being the latest urban opus from writer/director David Ayer (Training Day), Harsh Times undoubtedly has quite a bit of expectations placed on it. While the gritty visual style that Ayer brings is on par with his previous outings—even going a step further with the switch to a choppy style to reflect Jim’s instability—the story itself left us a little cold. Don’t get us wrong—the characters certainly are compelling ones. It’s just that by the end of the movie, we were left wondering what exactly was the point of this whole exercise.
Nevertheless, the chance to see Bale play another psychologically unstable character (a trait he’s perfected in films like American Psycho and Equilibrium) is worth the price of admission alone, if nothing else. Sporting that trademark crazed, I’m-going-to-snap-at-any-second look in his eye, Bale steals the show from start to finish.
The rest of the cast does a decent enough job, particularly Rodriguez as the only person who’s (barely) keeping Jim from going completely over the edge. Eva Longoria (TV’s Desperate Housewives) also turns in a commendable performance. The only other actor, however, that’s really as compelling to watch as Bale is JK Simmons (Thank You for Smoking) in a bit part as the agent that’s interviewing Jim.
It’s certainly not exactly director Ayer’s best effort, but Harsh Times is still a pretty compelling flick. Fans of Training Day will not want to miss this one.