Harsh Times Review: Dull and Uncreative

November 10, 2006

  • US Release Date: November 10, 2006
  • Genre: Drama, Crime
  • MPAA: Rated R (for strong violence, language and drug use)
  • Running Time: 120 minutes
  • Directed by: David Ayer
  • on IMDb
  •    4.5/10
“This is my career. I got one shot.”
- Christian Bale as Jim Davis

Harsh Times is the story about two friends, Jim (Christian Bale) and Mike (Freddy Rodriguez), who cruise the streets in Los Angeles while getting in trouble, smoking joints, drinking beer, and speaking like 16-year-olds. It lacks originality, it lacks creativity, and most of all it lacks a good script. It's a very bland and very long film that takes forever to build up into very brief moments of excitement before dropping back into childish mayhem. Harsh Times feels more like High Times: there is more marijuana smoking and "chilling" than there is violence.

Jim (Bale) formerly served in the military in Afghanistan, or as he calls it, "trash-can-a-stan." After his honorable discharge he has come back to his life in South Los Angeles and his good friend Mike (Rodriguez). Mike's girlfriend is Sylvia (Eva Longoria), who dislikes Jim and his reckless and wants Mike to get a job. Jim has a girlfriend in Mexico who he promises to eventually marry in order to get her a visa to come to the United States, and in the meantime he attempts to join the LAPD. After the LAPD rejects Jim, he and Mike set off to "party" and enjoy life as they know best while cruising the streets in what looks like an undercover police car.

In a film with two very identifiable characters like Jim and Mike, the key elements needed are a rigid definition of the mood and a pervasive level of intensity; I found neither of these in Harsh Times. Instead I sat through a dull and lengthy film that takes forever to build up to any moments of intensity, instead wasting time on the childish whims of these two friends. As deep as this story goes, there is nothing at all that helps build it, not even an accompanying soundtrack or exciting moments. The gritty South L.A. lifestyle for two nearly-broke unemployed friends is one of the only parts captured well.

Although the script is one of the worst I've seen in a while, Bale and Rodriguez handled it well, brightening up what otherwise would have been a disaster. It never builds up a flow like it should to reach the climatic moments. The lines are written and delivered in such an adolescent style that Jim and Mike seem like immature 16-year-olds. It takes nearly two hours to finally reach a thrilling scene, but at that point the viewer is so removed from the movie that the scene loses much of its potential.

Last Word:
There isn't much you'll get from Harsh Times beyond two hours of uncreative filmmaking. It does have a few scenes where the intensity steps up, and Bale and Rodriguez do give worthy performances. With an awful script and poor directing by first-time director David Ayer, Harsh Times does not demonstrate the innovative independent filmmaking I expected. For only a few moments almost two hours in you'll finally feel the adrenaline, but for the price of the ticket it's better to stay at home and have some beers yourself.

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  • HomieDawg
    Ur a fu#cken Idiot. That movie is one of the best representations of "HOMIES from Los Angeles", that I've seen on film. What have you done dumb$hit?
  • Finlay
    What a rubbish review. This movie is EXCELLENT but not one for watching with your girlfriend! Its like training day but much much better (believe it or not). Christian Bale is scary as hell, my head is still reeling from this film and i watched it 2 nights ago. My guess is that the reviewer here is probably a 50yr old church goer who only watches films like 'the notebook' and 'love actually'. How can you say its 'bland' and 'unexciting' LOL - 'dull and lengthy' - what the hell? are you sure you are reviewing the right film?!?! - EVERYBODY WATCH IT ITS AMAZING!!! 11/10*
  • BRONX Homie YZ
    This movie kicks @ss, whoever reviewed this,go back home and watch some f--king corny romance movie.
  • tampa fl
    I must say an hour in to the movie I got a phone call and I remember saying,"Who would make this or even write this movie, she ask me "whats the movie about?", and honestly I said "I could not tell you." This movie is about chillin' in LA with the two homies, who we assume have some history together. This movie does tell a story and I think could be better if it had better editing, meaning leaving some of the "worthless shit" out of the movie. Overall i feel this movie tells the story it should and I feel for the characters adn in my book whan a movie does that it has served its purpose. If I ever met a mofo as crazy as the ex ranger dude Id be scared he might flip out any sec.
  • Sharpe
    Listen man, I don't listen to hip-hop, I'm no street fellow, as a matter of fact I hate the gangster lifestyle... True, the script was messed up, but this movie has tension in it, I have never felt so tense in my entire life (That's right, this is tenser then real-life situations, cuz in movies you cant do shit). Christian Bale is scary as hell, forget American Psycho, that was nothing. He's on flip mode in this movie, he got a gun in his hands every second, just itching to pull the trigger on ANYONE, even his homie. Anyways, don't listen to the reviewer. Watch this movie, but let me remind you: you're not gonna feel safe at any moment in the movie.
  • GrandPUBA
    To the guy who said this movie was better then training day...your opinion is now null and void...
  • GrandPUBA
    Oh yeah, if you cant sit through this movie and actually think Mr. "Across the Pond" can pull off a Poor South Central white guy accent
  • Auckl NZ
    Loved it......Christian Bale is amazing. The script, the acting was perfect. Not only was it intense, it felt REAL. I give it top marks.
  • sharon
    the movie was great! everything seemed realistic. the movie remained me like the real live people live out in the streets of cali and mex. Also christian bale is very handsome! lol
  • CJR
    Worst movie I've ever seen. What a waste of time! Do not watch this movie!
  • Nina
    Great actors, very generous. Script seriously lacking but made it truthfull more often than not. How many times can you say dude in one scene? Check out the benining and count! lol. And they`re supposed to be adults? They acted like teenagerss! but it IS POSSIBLE, so. Rythm too slow, so so editing and a little long. And yet a lot of tension in a couple of good scenes. Satisfying else could it have ended. The best thing about it is that it made me think about what young men are coming back AS from this stupid useless war! And how they are left alone with their nightmares. Not great, but not a bomb either. 6.5/10
  • Connor
    Honestly, I thought this movie was a top notch. The lack of plot lied in how realistic the movie was. I found humor in several sub-plots. best laugh i've had in a long time. Mostly manly men will find dthis movie good. If you're looking for some "meaning of life" or "grand realization". This doesn't really have any life changing events. it is every day life.
  • Doug From Cali
    Good Movie. Christian Bale reminded of a few my homies I used to hang with back in the days. He played the character well.
  • Dan Ryan
    Absolute rubbish. Dont waste your time. Went to see 'This is England' last night, now thats a movie worthy of my time.
  • Dr. Didymo
    This movie is sh!t. A depressing, joyless, soul-crushing, tedious waste of the longest 2 and a half hours of my life. If I wanted to feel like this I would go kick some puppies or just spend some quality time eating sh!t. Do youself a favour and spend the money on a new pair of socks. They will be far more entertaining.
  • ~roll another blunt~
    "Not great, but not a bomb either." U BETTER WATCH WHAT U SAY, THERES PPL OUT THERE THAT MIGHT KNOW YOU . DONT FUCK WITH SOLDIERS! WTF is that reviewer guy talking about, buddy stay off the crack pipes- they'le mmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeesssssssss with ur brain, fucker!!! if u want psycho i'll show u psycho. @@ i think the fact that the reviewerdude actually sits behind ur computer and writes this shit. this is 1 fuckin' tripppppppppp dude....... dr didymmo needs sit back and spark up a fresh 1- y would u wanna go kick sum puppies or eat sum shit. thats just silly THINK ABOUT HOW YOU REACT BEFORE YOU TO THIS COMMENT........ I like the music in that movie. i fucked up man, oh no i fucked up!!!!! Get sum pussy fagots ()???? POOOTTTAAAANNNNNGGGGG DAN RYAN IS GAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAHA THIS IS ENGALND U FAGOT!!
  • Sergio Massicotti
    Honestly, this is the worst movie I've seen in a long time... I could not watch it till the end just cause it sucked too bad. 5 minutes in the movie and I just felt something weird: I didn't beleive anything about these guys. I would not recommend that thing to anyone!
    A chilling, accurate representation of the main characters... reminds me of some of the insane shit me and my homeboy used to do... driving around fucked up all the time getting into all kinds of shit... very powerful performances. the last 30 minutes lose some intensity and dont quite fit right, but still an excellent movie. ***/****
  • sergio massicotti
    yeah... teens smokin doobies and drinkin beer... steeling cigarettes at the corner store... chilling powerful piece of crap...
  • Ashley
    Dis movie rocked!! Christian Bale nd Freddy Rodriguez played it really well!! but the whole ''wassup dawg/homie'' got annoyin after a while...but dis movie is so worth watching!! This film is actually believable which is actually pretty rare in these kind of films!!
  • Tiko
    I've been a Christian Bale fan since Empire of the Sun. He never disappoints. Perhaps the movie wasn't perfect, but I think it said alot about how men can be affected by their combat experience and how it could invade their lives if they don't address it. This applies to anyone who may suffer from PTSD, including someone who isn't safe in their own home. Remember how Jim flinched when an acquaintance reached in the driver's side car window to shake his friend's hand? Very realistic.... and heartbreaking. It made me think how lost these men and women must feel when they return home. What despair there must exist for those who don't have a support system to help them. Sad that even his friend didn't know how to help him.
  • Aaron
    I wasnt too impressed with the movie. I did like it though all the way up till Jim found out he was going to columbia. They could of had a better ending. The actors did a killer job but the plot sucked. Then again i'm a prior combat veteran and I didnt like seeing jim suffer from PTSD. So yeah...
  • mr. x
    i was impressed by the mere meaningless nonsense of all their conversations. how is it even possible to talk for that long and at the same time not talk of anything. it is probablly very realistic - but there is no need to watch it for 2 hours. throughout the movie i get the feeling that a 16 year old has written the script.. trying to imagine.. the harsh lives of two LA hommies. Resulting in a very clichee and boring movie. There is very mixed reactions over the movie and i think it depends greatly on who you are - if you will like the movie. i didn't. probablly the worst movie i have seen.
  • peter
    this was the crappiest but funniest movie ever just for christian bales accent! what was that all about whats a white english guy with a spanish accent doing living in that neighbourhood cracked me up!
  • he could kick your ass
  • mascoots
    not tu sure about that... i'd go for it anytime!
  • WTF
    "Yeah, I got a six pack, but I only have 4 left cuz I drank two LAST NIGHT!!!". -Wow, what the hell does 2 beers do to anybody. Is this writer f'n kidding me?? Who gets excited about scoring $20 from their girlfriend for beer and bragging that they drank 2 of them!!!!!!???? Unless you're 16, of course. This is now a running joke for my friends and I due to it being the dumbest line in any movie I've ever seen...If you think this is an accurate portrayal of 2 hard core friends or homiez or whatever, than you probably are still drinking wine coolers and smoking black n milds. In my opinion, this movie is a comedy and a bad one at that.
  • Maniac 45678
    This reviewer is a total fucktard! Bashing a great film. Yeah this is not some high budget corny, pop corn shit. This movie has a spirit. Harsh Times is a great movie!!! Good acting and directing. It is really a breath of fresh air in today's shitty, syropy movie scene. Please stop reviewing movies because you wouldn't don't know a good movie if it fell and hit you over the head. You SUCK!!!
  • ryan
    omg i just watched this shit like 5 mins ago and im already writing my review 1st off fantastic fuckin movie the only other movie i have actually seen that competes with this is the departed im goin to the army here in about 3 months so it kinda shows me whats gonna happen fuck who ever said it sucks i agree stick to the notebook pussies
  • You don't know shit man. Your review on the movie is totally incorrect. You didn't understand a shit about what the movie is about. You go further even saying and giving examples like there's no good music over the movie, ha.. turn your speakers on. As David Ayer explains in the commentaries, he specially focused on trying to put the right music for each of the environments where the action takes place. It's by the way, THE BEST MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN. Great scenaries, environments, it feels, it smells great. Wicked acting, amazing dialogues, the story itself is OFF DA HOOK.. hehe. IF YOU STILL HAVEN'T SEEN IT, GO FOR IT AND LEARN WHAT REALITY IS ALL ABOUT.
    Well, I have to agree this movie felt very times you usually hear music, all you hear are the sounds of yelling and frantic driving. It is just like scarface, you can't help but love the character but he fucks himself over, and its so very depressing. But I love watching it. Also whoever wrote that taste. Whoever it was, they said it was uncreative, and it didn't build up and flow. Well maybe it was too creative and fricking innovative because it was something a little less traditional than that person is used too. Wow whoever that was is LAME.
  • Jackson
    I am Chinese in China just watched this Harsh Times,I had high expectation after reading reviews in imdb,am i disappointed by this movie?no. do i think this movie is superbly great,no. if the director wants this movie to be in theater with high profit,then he has to put more intensities,more dangerous situations,more exlosions... The actors are fuckin* great,I was glued to the movie throughout,the ending is actually satisfying anf left us to think about life,about what is true meaning in our lives. The girls are all sexy and beautiful,including Samantha Esteban,his sister,Mexican women,bar girl,hooker in the street,I am 100% Chinese,yet my lust was totally aroused. It' s not a movie as great as The Departed,but it's excellent movie,it's a tasty beef steak after you worked tired and sat down in your bedroom inserting the movie into my 50USD DVD.
  • Christian Bale
    fuck you motherfucker, Im gonna clock your lights stupid motherfucker, this is the best movie ever, you stupid motherfucker...
  • Freddy Rodriguez
    Damn, chill out Chris...
  • Eva Longoria
    Freddy, you're not going to mexico!
  • Freddy Rodriguez
    Bullshit, I'm a man!
  • Angel From Tpa,FL
    wow the "reviewer" can lick balls! This movie was the shit!! sad ending tho but wayyyy worth it..
  • don ginog
    creative use of light, tight frames. satisfying. would have been better though if the end shot had been of Bale in Colombia cos that would have been very chilling knowing that a percentage of law enforcement officers are psycho(which is a proven fact)




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