HARSH TIMES
 

Directed by David Ayer. US. 2006.


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk
 
 


 
 

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Ayer wrote the excellent 'Training Day' which followed the day in the life of new recruit, Ethan Hawke as he attempted to gain enough respect from his prospective boss, Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the tyrannical lawman who thinks he is above the law.   

While that film asked questions about race and working upon that by making the superior black to the inferior white cop; this time we have the story of Jim Cross (Christian Bale) who is a (2nd) Gulf War veteran attempting to gain employment with the LAPD, while his friend Mikey (Freddy Rodriguez) attempts to find any entry level position.  Both men have their demons; Jim cannot tell the difference between the war-zone and the gangland wars he thinks are the same thing in Los Angeles and Mikey has problems with alcohol and a wife who is an assistant District Attorney. 

The film unlike 'Training Day' does not have the constraints of a 24-hour time span in which to draw a picture of somebody and implode on it.  This follows a one week time frame as Jim overcomes disappointment and then gets offered a position for Immigration Services in Colombia, which may put the brakes on his intention to marry a Mexican girl. 

The film is shot breezily and works well because of the great chemistry between Bale and Rodriguez whose friendship and peer pressure on each other leads to all manner of incidence.  At one point you wonder how many days must they waste before something productive occurs to them allowing the narrative thrust of the film to go forward. 

And while Bale does control the entire scope of the film - he acted as executive producer - his character another of his psychologically damaged roles of which he has built quite a cornerstone for; it is credit to Rodriquez who more than holds his own against such a presence combining wit, fear and strength in depth. 

Support comes from Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) and J. K. Simmons (Spider-Man) but their roles are not as fully developed as the main two protagonists, but when the acting is this strong this is but a tiny criticism. 

Ayer in his first directorial outing does well, using steady camerawork and takes an interesting concept for Jim and Mike's ridealongs.  Shooting from outside of the car, Jim and Mike talk in the shadow of tall buildings across their car window putting into perspective their dreams and ambitions are very much small in comparison to the others and that they really are still college boys who have not yet grown up while the rest of the world has moved on. 

Jamie Garwood
 
 
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