Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Harsh Times" (2006)

"Harsh Times" has gone totally under the radar (already leaving theaters) and that is a damn shame. It is a truly great movie and should be seen as such. Instead most of the reviewers that have seen it don't seem to get it. This movie is a statement of on-screen violence that should be recognized instead of shunned.

Every review I read decries the movie as being "too bleak", "too grim a world view to entertain", and "way too violent". But I say that's the point of the whole damn thing.

"Harsh Times" is art. This movie is fucked up. It made me flinch. It made me mad, frightened, and sad. But most of all it made me think.

The movie is brutal and for most of its running time seemingly pointless, but by the end of it the whole thing comes together in this great statement about the limits of friendship, men in our society being seduced by violence, and madness.

This might be Christian Bale's best performance yet. His character is totally psycho in this movie - on so many different fucked up levels I don't know how a sane actor could keep them straight without losing it himself. The script is street-poetry genius (much like "Training Day" was). David Ayer who is writing, financing, and directing here really put his heart and soul into this flick. So too does Freddy Rodriguez who is Bale's co-star. The guy always gets stuck playing 'the immigrant dish-washer' but here he gets a starring role with equal screen-time and goes round for round with Bale's genius. Rodriguez should get a Best Supporting nod for this.

But he won't. Just like Bale will get overlooked for Best Actor, and Ayer for best screenplay. This movie is too hard a pill to swallow.

It made me think of how "Taxi Driver" would get reviewed if released in today's climate. Nobody really wants hard truths like this in movies anymore - at least not in the mainstream. I think "Harsh Times" is going to be one of those video classics that get passed around a few friends at a time. And every guy who sees it will love the hell out of it, and will 'get it', and will pass it on to their friends who they know will 'get it' too.

This movie isn't for everyone, but it is for those pissed-off, bored, and angry "Stat" type guys. You know who you are. I'm telling you guys - go see "Harsh Times".


I equate 'Harsh Times" to "Way of the Gun" And here's why. McQuarrie writes "The Usual Suspects" which everyone pops a boner for. Then when he follows it up by writing & directing "Way of the Gun" it gets totally ignored by critics and movie-goers. Until it starts getting recommended by the few of us who saw it. And now it's a classic. "Harsh Times" the same thing happened. Ayer writes "Training Day" to huge success. He writes & directs "Harsh Times" and gets totally fucked by critics and box office.

I think the common denominator with both of these writers is that their second movies represent their true, unfiltered visions of the world and of what makes a kick-ass movie. Maybe the 'safety's off' approach that they made their second films with is a turn-off to the Robert Altman loving world but it is exactly what I am looking for.

Originally posted on November 22, 2006 on Myspace.

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