Harsh Times


Harsh Times
David Ayer, USA
2005, Andrea Sperling Productions
116 mins, English

LATAMROB rating: **

THIS IS A clumsy, albeit eventually successful, journey into the violent reality of Latino life in Los Angeles that reveals US ambivalence towards its neighbours from south of the Rio Grande. Jim (Christian Bale) is a scary, bipolar, former special-forces soldier back from terrorising the Middle East whose long-term friendship with Mike (Freddy Rodríguez) has evolved into a mutually destructive permanent binge of drink and drugs taking the pair forever to the brink of disaster. Jim and Mike cruise the city’s poor Latino burbs, ostensibly looking for work yet getting drunk and high, and falling into violent scrapes with other homies. Traumatised by warfare, yet clearly psychopathic, Jim veers ever closer to breakdown as Mike becomes aware that his friendship with this dangerous loose cannon is wearing thin. The two men end up in Mexico, where Jim freaks out and threatens his pregnant mujer with death as his condition deteriorates. Eva Longoria is surprisingly good as Sylvia, Mike’s long-suffering yet realistic partner. Although the plot is not well crafted and the script has many rough edges, David Ayer’s film is ultimately successful because of one interpretation that might be placed upon it: despite the violent world inhabited by many of LA’s Latinos, it is the non-Latino “white boy” (Bale) who is the self-styled Angel of Death. Getting this across – and indeed getting this film made – in a cinema sector notoriously resistant to Latin American and Latino themes must be considered something of an achievement. – EC