Thursday, 4 December 2008

Harsh Times

Hard to include a film in this blog that features two of my favorite current actors. Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez. But I gotta do it. This film was truly disappointing.

OK, picture this. Bale and Rodriguez are native Los Angelenos. You can buy that for Rodriguez even though he is of Puerto Rican descent and from Chicago. Bale, even though he is a great actor, is a bit harder to buy. Whenever he slips into the old "homey" and "esse" crap...nah, I don't get it. I mean, I guess that's how the white boys from the 'hood in LA talk. I wouldn't know. It just sounded weird to me.

Bale is veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He's been a part of some fucked up shit over there, and it seems he was a part of some fucked up shit over here even before he went. Everyone they run into during the film refers to him as the craziest mother-fucker that ever went down. He is trying to become a cop with the LAPD, but they are stringing him along because of his psych profile. The exact reason that the LAPD don't want him is the reason that the Feds (Homeland Security) do want him. Because he follows orders and doesn't care about the body count.

But before he can start his new job, he hangs out on the streets of LA with his buddy Rodriguez who is looking for work. They drink all day, riding around in Bale's faux police cruiser. They even roll some drug dealers and some hardened criminals while they are at it. As if there were no repercussions to worry about at all. Of course, they wind up being terribly wrong about that.

Good acting, even if Bale may have been miscast, decent storyline, hard as nails life on the streets of LA. So what went wrong with this flick?

I dunno, but something did. The characters weren't very likable. Bale was a psycho and a bully. Rodriguez was a little crazy himself, and he was weak-willed to the point of following Bale into just about any nutso situation. But I've watched plenty of films where I haven't liked the main characters and I have still enjoyed them. So it wasn't that.

The writer and director is the same guy that did Training Day, and this film had a lot of that same atmosphere. Just not as well done. Maybe because Ethan Hawke's character in that film was actually someone you could root for. Maybe.

Maybe it was just the sheer hopelessness of the situations that these characters kept getting themselves into. Maybe it was just LA. I've never been, and I've never really had an urge to go. It just seems so grimy and violent as it is portrayed on film. And I grew up a stone's throw from NYC, so I know a little about grimy and violent. I definitely do have an East Coast bias. I tend to prefer films that take place in NYC or Boston or even Chicago. Once you get past the Mississippi River, all bets are off.

But I watched this film and I kept waiting for it to deliver. I kept waiting for something that would make me go "Wow". But it never did. It wasn't an awful film. It was merely average. And sometimes a mediocre film that could have been great is worse than a bad film that never aspired to be anything other than what it is. At least you can have a good time making fun of those bad films.

This one just disappointed. And that's a shame given the pedigree of the participants.

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