Harsh Times

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(2005) ★★★★

Film4: Friday 27 November, 12.45am

Christian Bale in intense form as a military misfit back from Iraq, hoping to join the LAPD. But they’re not interested, even though Bale was honourably discharged after six years in uniform. “I bet you it’s because I’m white,” says the enraged Bale to his Mexican pal Freddy Rodriguez, who’ll be his reluctant partner on a booze and drug fuelled bender.

Training Day writer David Ayer tops Denzel Washington’s Oscar winner with a dark and dangerous drama that has bad-ending stamped all over it. And it doesn’t disappoint. Far less melodramatic – and much more disturbing – than Training Day, Harsh Times is harsh indeed (I’ve no idea what qualifies for an ‘18’ classification nowadays, though you’d apparently be mistaken to imagine it would be something like this).

The brilliant Bale’s scary conviction is, once again, grimly compelling. His 21st century roster of unrewarded roles is mindbending: American Psycho, The Machinist, The Prestige, Rescue Dawn, American Hustle. And here, drinking beer for breakfast and popping pills for panic attacks, he’s teetering on the edge throughout, wired and unpredictable. With no safety net in sight. After the intermittently arresting End of Watch, Ayer, alas, has lapsed into almost parodic posturing with his more recent exercises in bloated macho violence, Sabotage and Fury.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 116min

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