Harsh Times

I really liked the screenplay. They’re marketing the movie as a straight thriller but (in script form anyway) it wasn’t that at all… more of a drama with touches of black comedy.

I haven’t seen the movie, so don’t know whether they mucked it up in the execution. But just a heads up, it has potential to be decent.

I saw this movie a couple of years ago (yes, it’s been around that long, which should give you some indication that it had some issues).

I had mixed feelings about it - I’d be very interested in hearing differences from the screenplay you read, if you see it, as I thought there was a lot of political/anti-army crap that really soured the movie for me.

(spoilers)

I didn’t read it as a political script or as particularly anti-military. One of the characters is depicted as an ex-soldier who is traumatized by his war experiences and goes off the deep end, but I just viewed that as a specific characterization, not as some kind of indictment of the military. What really worked for me was the relationship between the two friends, the scenes of them cruising around and wasting time, and the dialogue. When the script tried to get “meaningful” in the third act I found it less successful.

Yeah, I guess the movie has been sitting around for a while. Either the studio felt it wasn’t good or they didn’t know how to market it. Selling it as a thriller seems to me to be a mistake. I find it unfortunate that it is sort of falling through the cracks, as it is one of the very few screenplays I have read in the last few years that I actively enjoyed and that stuck with me afterward.

I just saw this and I really liked it. Gordo, you should definitely check it out. Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriquez do a really good job with what David Ayers has written for them. There were times I thought that Bale wasn’t quite pulling it off, but it was a pretty brave performance. He was out there, and at times sounded pretty foolish, but it ultimately worked.

In terms of structure, it’s really odd. You’re right about the elements of black comedy, Gordo, which were quite nice. It’s funny that they tried to market it as a thriller, because it’s definitely not. It’s actually it’s an anti-thriller. There are probably almost a dozen false starts where you think, ‘Okay, this is it, here’s where everything goes wrong and the action gets underway!’, only to have nothing come of it. It becomes this almost excruciating exercise in watching a couple of oblivious guys really pushing their luck.

I have to disagree with Stefan about the political angle. Dude, seriously, you must have a crazy hair-trigger when it comes to portrayal of the military. Bale’s character was just a wigged out kid who couldn’t really cope with his time in the service. I fail to see how that was anti-army in the least.

There was a sequence with minor political undertones, so maybe that’s what bothered you. But I really liked the portrayal of DHS, which was another bit of black comedy. You have the suited middle-aged men as a front for some fat slob sitting in the shadows looking for recruits to take down to Columbia for the war on drugs. He doesn’t care about their psych profiles, or their piss tests, or their polygraph results. After 90 minutes of banging around the streets of LA, it was a surprising detour.

Anyway, too bad this was completely overlooked. I really enjoyed it.

-Tom