HARSH TIMES (David Ayer). 117 minutes. Opens Friday (November 10). For venues and times, see Movies, page 145. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Writer/producer David Ayer (the excellent Training Day) makes a weak directorial debut by blowing off the potential in his original and scary story idea in favour of a weak character study.
Christian Bale (Batman Begins) gives a high-energy performance as Jim Davis, a former U.S. Ranger who wants a career in law enforcement. But he's a drug- and beer-addled loser filled with psychotic rage and a lust to kill. Ten minutes in, we know the guy is going to meet a bad end, so we spend nearly two hours waiting for it while he tools around the L.A. barrio committing stupid crimes with his buddy ( Freddy Rodriguez of Six Feet Under) and screwing up one chance after another to succeed simply because he can't stay straight and focused.
Because there's so little backstory, we can't tell if Davis is a casualty of war or just a moral imbecile. Without that knowledge, his final fate lacks meaning, and the contrast between him and his buddy, who wants to do right and go straight but has the backbone of a wet noodle, fails to resonate.
Ayer's direction is average. He lets scenes run on too long, and several are repetitious. The buddy's character flaw emerges again and again, killing any sense of mounting tension.