HARSH TIMES is an engaging little character study of what it means for an ex-soldier to live with post-traumatic stress, all wrapped up in a jazzy thriller package that recalls the ‘edgy’ likes of TRAINING DAY and NARC. Indeed, this is a film masquerading to be something it’s not, and I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t appreciate the ‘look’ of it very much: the supposedly realistic, gritty, on-the-street vibe has been done to death both in the movies and on TV and it’s something I’m frankly tired of. Drugs, casual violence, profanity; it’s all here and proving there’s nothing new under the sun.
The good thing about this movie is the quality of the cast, as headlined by Bale, Rodriguez, and Longoria. They’re excellent. Bale once again delivers the goods as a messed-up soldier haunted by his violent past, and he gets to do some great emotional meltdown scenes. A young, fresh Rodriguez is the perfect foil, while Longoria adds a bit of class to the proceedings. I found the film’s storyline to be somewhat meandering, and some scenes feel extraneous to the central plotting. But it all comes together in the last half-hour which proves to be gritty, edge-of-your-seat stuff; it really is impossible to predict what kind of catastrophe is going to happen. The emotional coda packs a real punch thanks to Bale’s heartfelt turn, making this film better than it has any right to be.
Review by Leofwine_draca