Harsh Times

Critics Consensus

Despite a dedicated performance by Christian Bale, Harsh Times suffers from a heavy-handed and overly bleak plot.



Total Count: 99


Audience Score

User Ratings: 91,186
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Movie Info

An unstable Gulf War veteran with a savior complex receives a shocking wake-up call upon returning stateside and accepting a position with the Department of Homeland Security in the directorial debut of Training Day screenwriter David Ayer. Jim (Christian Bale) is a Gulf War veteran who believes his sworn duty to protect his fellow Americans extends to the streets of Los Angeles, and he longs to fulfill his destiny by joining the LAPD. Rejected by the force and left to ponder his future with his impoverished Mexican paramour -- whom he had intended on bringing to the city after joining the police -- the dejected and unemployed veteran is offered a second shot at helping his country when he is subsequently approached by the Department of Homeland Security. As Jim and his unemployed best friend, Mike (Freddy Rodriguez), carve a swath of chaos through the streets of Los Angeles, the weight of their American dream soon comes crashing down in a devastating blow that threatens to dash their high hopes for a bright future.

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Critic Reviews for Harsh Times

All Critics (99) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (51)

  • Harsh Times is an hour-by-hour diary of two crazy, unreliable, irresponsible dudes trying to find a way to fit into the same society they hate, facing one hurdle after another until they appear to butcher half of Los Angeles.

    Nov 15, 2006

    Rex Reed

    Top Critic
  • Jim is such a psycho and Mike is such a patsy, we don't care about these guys. We've seen dozens of more interesting head cases in dozens of smarter films.

    Nov 13, 2006
  • Harsh Times is so into its own nihilism, it sometimes forgets the humanity beneath the hurt.

    Nov 10, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Endless scenes of the two guys riding along, venting and cursing and chugging beers play like acting-class exercises, badly written ones at that.

    Nov 10, 2006 | Rating: 2/5
  • Ayer makes his directing debut with Harsh Times, which is so relentlessly grim that it occasionally goes over the top and invites derision.

    Nov 10, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • For a neophyte director, Ayer displays a lot of style.

    Nov 10, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Harsh Times

  • Feb 06, 2012
    Boring character driven film
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2011
    I was excited to watch Harsh Times cause 1) They had Christian Bale 2) Gritty crime drama Wow.. this movie was crap. The plot was one of the most dull plots to have ever existed; it starts to take off literally in the last 30 minutes. Poorly directed, edited, and shot. The screenplay had no content whatsoever. Christian Bale pulls off a very committed performance but literally everything else fails.
    Albert K Super Reviewer
  • Sep 18, 2011
    This film just didn't capture me, but it might be a hit for you, a out of control ex gulf war veteran returns home to find a job in law enforcement and he just can't control his anger. only worth 2 1/2 stars from me.
    Bruce B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 28, 2011
    I know when I think gangster thug, I think Christian Bale or at least I do now, because "American Accent #42" is great. I don't know if there's that many variations of an american accent, but if there are, then Christian Bale knows them. He's so british, he's almost cockney and he couldn't be bothered to play french, at the very least. Man, what is this world coming to where great talents are abandoning their own heritage? These really are harsh times or the next generation of classic rock, where the most british of brits would come out and sing like they just pulled up in a pickup truck with a keg of moonshine whiskey in the back. Well, after hearing this film's soundtrack, it's safe to assume that no matter how much I prey to the almighty Axl Rose, the response is always going to be "Oh-woah-woah, sweet child o' mine, the future looks bleak for quality music." Of course, that's just a problem with humanity, not necessarily a problem with this film, which actually suffers from some faulty editing, slowness, drop-offs in engagement, some overdrawn points, improvable dialogue and a cop-out ending. Of course, what might be the film's biggest problem is that pretty much nothing happens for so much of it. There's plenty of problems surrounding our leads, but there's so little of it that's conveyed sharply enough, that there's hardly any smooth sense of conflict. However, it makes up for that lack of compellingness by bringing on a whole heap of it in the final act and although said final act closes abruptly, it still really hits home. Still, before that, the whole weight of this film lays on the shoulders of the performances, which are charismatic and keep the film rather entertaining. There is plenty of charming banter between characters and the performers' charisma and chemistry make it enjoyable to watch, even though these sequences are rather expendable. Still, when the performers get into the dramatic aspects, they carry the compellingness home and they stand as a strong presence, especially Bale, who is absolutely electric in this film. If you see this film for nothing else, then see it for Bale's incredible performance, because with excellent emotional work, many smoothly played-upon layers and a powerful presence, he really dives into the role and conveys the struggles and pains of his character so sharply that after a while, he completely transforms into the Jim Davis character. In the end, "Harsh Times" falls short on consistently keeping up a compelling atmosphere, but thanks to a strong, charismatic cast - headed by an exhilarating performance by Christian Bale - and an emotionally riveting final act, it ultimately stands as an entertaining character study worth watching.
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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