You probably know Christian Bale as Batman. You might know him as a singing and dancing newsboy who made your heart melt with every syllable uttered in his New York circa 1899 accent. It’s possible that you have recently been introduced to him as an emaciated insomniac or a murderer/Huey Lewis and the News enthusiast. Now, let me present to you Christian Bale, a recent war veteran trying to piece his life back together on the streets of L.A. amidst Chicano culture and the temptation of drugs and delinquency.
“Harsh Times,” Bale’s latest release, surveys Jim Davis, an ex-Army Ranger who has recently returned to the U.S., but hasn’t quite left the war. His attempts to become a member of the LAPD are laced with moments of inner struggle and his indestructible friendship with Mike (Freddy Rodruiguez) threatens to break his inner moral compass.
Bale has continued to be successful in almost every film he makes. He’s a hell of an entertainer, obscenely good looking, and unlike many Hollywood actors, his career has been extremely diverse. He has shown his talent by romancing women, chopping up prostitutes and battling villains. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of “the streets of L.A.” recently and, thank you very much “Crash,” I thought I had my fill. But Bale’s complete confidence in “Harsh Times” will send me to the theater.
As both writer/director, David Ayer wrote the script as a reflection of his own life in L.A. Filmed in 24 days, Ayer ditched the studio and mortgaged his own home to pay for all the costs of production, a feat almost unheard of in Hollywood. Bale explained, “he literally put his money where his mouth is … so there is no question about whether or not this is just a filler to make a living … this was a labor of love.”
Within that time period, the cast even traveled to Mexico, the home of Jim’s girlfriend Marta (Tammy Trull), to give the film authenticity. Bale enters all of his characters as a blank canvass, rather than bringing in pieces of himself. He had to “live and breathe in it” to become Jim. One of the greatest successes of “Harsh Times” should be its ability to capture realism. Bale had to immerse himself completely in Chicano culture because, as he admitted in a conference call, “you don’t have to be the real deal to spot a fraud.”
After all the shooting was over, at 8 a.m. in the desert the cast sat down with a bit of liquor to celebrate their accomplishments. Bale laughed as he told the story – “and suddenly I was just being me and everyone was staring at me thinking ‘holy f—, that bastard’s been acting the whole time!”
He’s talented, he knows it and you aren’t human if you didn’t like “Batman Begins.” Perhaps the mean streets of the West Coast don’t interest you, but “The Dark Knight” doesn’t come out until 2008, and Christian Bale has a lot to offer until then.