Harsh Times

DRESSED TO KILL Bale, left, won't be messed with.
DRESSED TO KILL Bale, left, won’t be messed with.

Time Out says

What’s the next step for an actor as gifted as Christian Bale? He’s already pushed directors like Todd Haynes, Mary Harron and Steven Spielberg to their extremes. The answer, evidently, is Harsh Times; watching Bale tear into another American psycho—bringing with him the same scary conviction, wild eyes and explosive physicality he wasn’t allowed in Batman Begins—is almost enough to make this crime flick recommendable.

But as exciting as this actor can be, he sticks out like a sore thumb here: Bale’s barely hinged Gulf War vet, jiving around violent South Central and into a shady job with Homeland Security, is even more of a distraction than Denzel Washington’s deranged cop in Training Day (one of the director’s previous scripts). Both characters straddle criminality and the law in ways we might not like to consider. “I’m a soldier of the apocalypse,” Bale offers menacingly, and it’s hard not to think that’s just a sideline to his chief job as Angel of Death. But the rest of the movie is a soggy mess: warmed-over Mean Streets (Rodrguez plays the wary best friend) spiced with hotcha stunt casting (Longoria, unpersuasively an attorney). Numerous “yo, dawgs” and fierce handclasps cement the film’s bad-boy rep a little too strenuously. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf



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