Friday, August 22, 2008

Harsh Times Indeed

About a year ago -- maybe more -- I watched a movie directed by Brad Anderson called "The Machinist" starring Christian Bale. Released in 2004, I'm not sure on what movie channel it was being shown but I came across it and recorded it and fired it up without any real info other than Christian Bale was its star.

It was a bit intense, but like everything else in Christian Bale's body of work, it was jarring and memorable. It's the story of Trevor Reznik, a guy who is obsessed with some recent and not-so-recent events in his past. As such, he's an insomniac and has trouble handling day-to-day life. For the role, Bale -- in the vein of Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro -- lost a third to half his body weight to depict the troubled, almost quasi-human character. It's uncomfortable seeing his bones just below the skin, but as was the case with DeNiro in Taxi Driver -- or even The Untouchables -- it's a level of commitment that's rarely seen in the age of CGI and blue-screen backgrounds.

So...the other night I'm navigating the 12,000 channels currently fed into my world via an HD DVR box, and I came across "Harsh Times," another Christian Bale movie of which I'd heard nothing about. The brief info attached to the upcoming movie described it as a story about an Iraq war vet with some psychological problems starting shit all over LA. Also in the film were Eva Longoria-Parker-Whatever and Terry Crews (one of the bad-guy brothers in Norbit). Done...set to record.

Anyway, I watched it -- in pieces -- and although the beginning was really solid, the movie wound down pretty quickly. Christian Bale's character, apparently, is some former street-scumbag from East LA, so half the movie involves lines tinged with "ese," "homie" or "bro." This is all well and good -- much like the film "Training Day," there's nothing wrong with showing the gritty, repulsive side of East LA (is there any other?). It just kinda falls flat when you know Christian Bale isn't even remotely close to being that sorta dude. Picture Kenneth Branagh playing a pimp in the South Bronx -- that's about the same incongruity.

The movie does, however, depict an interesting dichotomy; it shows how some of the most capable military troops -- Rangers, Green Berets, et al -- aren't all farm boys from Kansas and Nebraska. Some of them are from urban, low-end parts of the countries from backgrounds -- not religious or ethnic, but cultural -- that would make many of their superiors blush. Otherwise, however, it was a waste of two hours and a lot of talent (at least in the case of Christian Bale).

To sum it up, if the powers that be took "Dude, Where's My Car" and made it a crime drama, and removed essentially all entertainment value therefrom, it would be "Harsh Times."

No comments: