Harsh Times

Rated 3.0

An ex-Army Ranger (Christian Bale), who hoped to become an L.A. cop until he failed the psychological test, lands a federal job that will have him fighting Colombian drug lords. But first, he and his best friend (Freddy Rodriguez) go off on a reckless spree of drinking and drugs. Writer-director David Ayer’s script often seems as aimless and dead-ended as his protagonists’ lives, and watching their self-destructive arc is a grueling ordeal. But it’s certainly never boring or phony; Ayer has a feel for the grimy underside of urban life and a jolting energy that holds your attention. He stacks the deck by making his antihero too crazy for the LAPD, but Bale gives a repellently fascinating performance. Rodriguez, as his saner pal, matches him, as does Eva Longoria as Rodriguez’s long-suffering girlfriend.