Harsh Times – DVD Review

Film, Reviews

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
David Ayer

Christian Bale … Jim Luther Davis
Armando Cantina … Little Old Man
Freddy Rodríguez … Mike Alonzo
Eva Longoria … Sylvia
Kenneth Choi … Fujimoto
Tammy Trull … Marta
Terry Crews … Darrell
Robert Dahey … Korean Clerk

The Movie:

When looking to cast a film, it’s just as important to hire the right actor as it is a good one. Sometimes an actor can surprise you, taking a character outside their range and making it their own, but just as often though, actors can be completely miscast, and despite their abilities, end up making a noble, but failing effort. Such is the case with Christian Bale in Director David Ayer’s Harsh Times. Playing an ex-military, streetwise hood trying to get into law enforcement, Bale’s charisma and intensity shines through, but the film’s South Central L.A. setting has the actor looking like a fish out of water, unable to adapt to the film around him.

Initially the film has much going for it, as Bale is able to go after his role of Jim Davis with much vigor. Paired with friend Mike Alonzo (Freddy Rodríguez), the duo goes in search of employment, but initially finds only rejection and troubles of many sorts. Getting into the middle of gang scuffles and other mischief, the twosome displays a deep camaraderie despite Jim’s mean streak, seeded by years in combat. Unfortunately as the film’s running time reaches its midway point, the film’s problems start to really show.

The movie’s biggest flaws come from its script. While the story is interesting, the film’s dialogue is lacking and seems quite clichéd. Jokes end up unfunny and Bale seems uncomfortable calling everyone “dog” every five seconds. While the story of Jim struggling with his inner demons is fascinating at times, the character is also such a scumbag underneath that it leaves you without anyone to really care about and root for. Bale gives the role his all, but the deficiencies in the film’s screenplay simply leave him out to dry to a point where the film becomes irredeemable.

Fairing better is Freddy Rodríguez, but even his Mike goes too far, free loading off of his girlfriend (Eva Longoria), and deceiving her by making her think he is searching for a job while he and Jim go around and getting intoxicated instead. This again causes a situation where each of the characters we follow on this journey are so unlikable that we aren’t concerned with what happens to them. We hope that they will soon redeem themselves, but they are of such low character you stop caring about whether they’ll live or die.

Writer/Director David Ayer is competent, but not outstanding in anyway, trying to do something with an obvious low budget, and not quite being able to put the pieces together. Individually, the movie has moments that work, but overall the experience is disjointed with the dialogue hindering the film to a point where the movie becomes a beguiling experience. Not a total failure, Harsh Times is simply a mediocre experience because of miscasting and bad scripting.

Bale still leaves an impression, but Harsh Times is easily forgotten. Actually made two years ago, before the actor hit the A-list with Batman Begins, the movie will end up being a blip on a filmography that will surely go on to include many great works. Where the film may have good intentions, the execution is just too weak to recommend.

The DVD:

The Video
Overall, the print on this disc is nice. There seems to be no degradation and the colors are pretty crisp throughout. There’s some nice, gritty photography at times, and the picture is never too dark that you can’t tell what going on. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85: 1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is also quite nice. There’s a good balance between dialogue and action, where neither is ever drowned out. Perhaps if some of the dialogue had been drowned out, the movie would have been a bit better.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Trailers

Commentary by Writer/Director David Ayer – This is actually a pretty nice commentary track, as Ayer isn’t really insightful, but is rather informative. He basically keeps talking the entire time, leaving no large gaps of time and is rather pleasant to listen to. The movie even seems a little better while he’s talking, but that has to do with not having to hear the movie’s bad lines.

Deleted Scenes – You get a few scenes, none of which are that crucial. The best of these scenes has Jim consoling Mike after a fight with his girlfriend. All in all, these are all pretty throwaway.

Trailers – You get several trailers, some of which are in Spanish.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Harsh Times
(OUT OF 10)






Robert Sutton feels the most at home when he's watching some movie scumbag getting blown up, punched in the face, or kung fu'd to death, especially in that order. He's a founding writer for the movies section of Insidepulse.com, featured in his weekly column R0BTRAIN's Badass Cinema as well as a frequent reviewer of DVDs and Blu-rays. Also, he's a proud Sony fanboy, loves everything Star Wars and Superman related and hopes to someday be taken seriously by his friends and family.