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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Urban > Military > Harsh Times (2005)

Harsh Times (2005)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



On the strength of the ever-impressive Training Day, writer David Ayer is back, directing his own screenplay this time with Harsh Times (2005), an interesting continuation of his knack for being able to look at current urban affairs without the pretense of Music Video, formula or myth.  This time, Christian Bale plays an vet of the Iraq war trying to reintegrate, getting together with his best friend (Freddy Rodriguez) and dealing with the woman in his life (Eva Longoria in some of her best work yet) who is outgrowing him.


He has old enemies to deal with, is still interested in high risk encounters with women and even has a sudden chance via his military background to work for Homeland Security.  Unfortunately, he has just started using narcotics casually and that is the kind of behavior that will undermine him in the end.


The cast is very good, but Bale continues to grow as an actor and no other actor of his generation is as willing to get his hands dirty as he.  A co-producer here, he just knows how to dig deep and stay there until he brings the role home.  Rodriguez manages to hold his own and the film is always compelling to watch, rarely missing a beat.  Bale fans will be particularly happy, but this is worth a good look as Ayer becomes a rising talent to be reckoned with.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is a little soft, but is nicely shot in Super 16mm film by Steve Mason, A.C.S., A.S.C., who along with the great editor Conrad Buff, A.C.E., deliver a film that has a substantial look without trickery or gutted color schemes.  This allows the viewer to become more involved.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is pretty good for a lower-budget production, so much so that I wished this was in DTS.  The Dolby compression seems to distort the Hip Hop music in particular.


Extras include an English theatrical trailer, TV spots in Spanish and English, deleted scenes that are decent and a very good audio commentary by Ayer worth your time and is especially recommended to filmmakers and film buffs.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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