Movie Review – Harsh Times (2005)

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The writer of Training Day brings you this film about two unemployed friends in their search for a job. It’s very much a ‘day in the life of…’ movie and we follow them over the period of a few days as they get drunk, get high and cruise around L.A. getting into trouble. Christian Bale plays Jim, a war veteran who has flashbacks to his violent deeds and always appears slightly unhinged while Freddy Rodriguez plays his best friend, Mike, who is under pressure from his girlfriend (Eva Longoria) to get a job. 

The strength of the film lies in these actors because their friendship feels real, so the audience instantly connects with them even though they’re not especially sympathetic. Bale is superb as Jim, because there’s always the sense that he’s dangerous and he’s going to do something violent and stupid but he exudes a genuine warmth so when the inevitable does happen it’s a shocking and upsetting moment. 

The film is paced nicely so it doesn’t get bogged down in mundane matters and there are some nice visual flourishes throughout. The tension ripples through the film and comes to a head in the last half hour. There’s some nice foreshadowing, so watch out for that, and the conclusion is really powerful. I was very, very impressed with this and you should definitely go and check it out, it’s a hidden gem.

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