This movie kept me completely involved from start to finish. I highly recommend it. I would say David Ayers (Training Day) who wrote and directed this film is a major talent to watch. He knows how to tell a good story, keep the audience involved and get great performances out of actors.
The film is in the "Films with Something to Say" category because it does have a message, despite lots of violence and well "harsh times"... sorry about that (-:
The movie follows Christian Bale playing Jim Davis. He is an ex-army ranger who is now living in South Central LA with no job and no prospects. He hangs out predominently with his best friend Mike Alonzo (Freddy Rodriguez) and basically proceeds to drag Mike as well as himself down into a life of drugs, violence and crime.
The movie really does a great job conveying the conflicts in the main character's mind- between wanting to be a good upstanding citizen and wanting to make a good life with his Mexican girlfriend who he loves, but being unable to resist being dragged down by his own mind. Basically he is just too messed up from what he has seen and done in the military to ultimately function in society. The level of desparation here is extremely palpable and also perhaps all too real for many who have served in the military.
The acting was outstanding in the film. Christian Bale definitely seems to not only be great at choosing movie roles, but he always delivers an A level performance. You can tell he takes his roles seriously. Freddy Rodriguez was also excellent in the movie. I am a fan of his from the TV Show "Six Feet Under." He does a good job portraying a completely different and believable character.
This movie was extremely violent, but completely fed into the story and was never gratuitous. I would definitely say Harsh Times might be an overlooked film of 2006.
Visuals: A- (only the minus added for the violence part)