BLU-RAY REVIEW: Harsh Times
Christian Bale steams in this riveting drama available now in hi-def...
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There's something about Christian Bale that makes audiences watch him, no matter what he's doing. Whether he's the leader of the rebellion against an innumerable and unbeatable force of robots, the resident of the Bat Cave or a factory worker unable to sleep, Bale lights up the screen in everything he does.
Now, thanks to The Weinstein Company and Vivendi Entertainment, fans can pick up Bale's sensational 2005 performance in Harsh Times. The directorial debut of writer/director/producer David Ayer (screenwriter for Training Day), Harsh Times finds the slightly askew Gulf War vet Jim Luther Davis (Bale) back stateside, looking for work in law enforcement. Along with his life-long pal Mike Alonzo (a fantastic Freddie Rodriguez), the two tear up the L.A. streets. However, thanks to a shady past, a drug problem, and a desire to save everyone, Jim soon realizes the American Dream he feels he so richly deserves isn't something everyone gets as the pressures of a full-time job and life in L.A. soon bog down his seemingly perfect plans.
As previously mentioned, Bale lights up the screen and doubly so in this intense and electrifying character drama, which shows the harsh reality of life for one soldier who's done things most of us can and will never imagine; only to return to regular life unable to adapt. As poignant now as it was 5 years ago, this morality tale highlights Bale's amazing commitment as an actor; not only does Bale never balk at the film's gritty world, but he engages it, encompassing us, the viewer, in what some fans would considered one of his finest performances.
Likewise, Freddie Rodriguez does an excellent job of complimenting Bale throughout, providing us with a lens through which to view and better understand Bale's misunderstood, shell-shocked, and unstable character. While it's difficult to appreciate sidekicks, Rodriguez makes it easy to understand their importance as truly Bale's Jim wouldn't be the same without Rodriguez's Mike. While we might often question Mike's unquestionable loyalty, we too understand his unwavering commitment to his best friend and confidant.
This blu-ray release features a solid 1080p video transfer in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Considering the way the film was shot (Super 16, 35mm) and the film's intended grittiness, the way it looks makes sense. There are still some hazy portions and background noise, but overall it's an improvement on the DVD release. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track delivers a better than expected listening experiance when compared to the look of the video. Solid bass tracks and surround features throughout deliver the film's score as well as gun play and dialogue.
Special features are few on this release, with a somewhat lackluster audio commentary by writer/director/producer Ayer, who provides plenty of detail regarding the film's creation and scenes, though with little emotional expression. A short 25 minute "Making of Harsh Times" featurette showcases the actors and crew on the set and behind-the-scenes. Worth watching for fans looking for a bit more in-depth info from the leads. Lastly, seven deleted scenes are also included for viewers looking for what hit the cutting room floor.
Overall, Harsh Times is a solid addition to any Bale fan's collection. If you've yet to see this powerful film featuring one of the most amazing performances by one of today's biggest movie stars, check it out immediately. Harsh Times is a hardcore, intense and somewhat under-appreciated piece of cinema featuring an angry, unapologetic story that's truly dramatic, heartbreaking, and ready for attention.
Harsh Times is available now on blu-ray hi-def wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley