Harsh Times (15)

'Swingers' for psychos
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Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) is an ex-con from South Central Los Angeles who needs to get a job to placate his lawyer wife (Eva Longoria). His best friend Jim (Christian Bale) volunteers to chauffeur him around all day, so he can drop off resumés with prospective employers - but Jim has plans of his own. Another one of Bale's American psychos, Jim is an unstable Gulf War veteran for whom getting a job comes a distant fourth to getting drunk, getting stoned and getting into trouble.

Harsh Times was written and directed by David Ayer, who also wrote the virtually identical Training Day. The main difference between the films is that in Training Day, the corruptee and the corrupter were a rookie policeman and his commanding officer, which made for an unbearably tense dynamic. But in Harsh Times neither of the men is far from rock bottom even at the start, so there's not much of a plot - just the gradual disintegration of Jim's sanity, as Mike realises that his unofficial taxi driver is straight out of Taxi Driver.

Harsh Times is a murky contemporary take on I Vitelloni, American Graffiti, Swingers, and every other coming-of-age buddy movie about guys who aren't quite equipped for adulthood. But it's also a brutal drama with a raging political undercurrent. The reason Jim and Mike are so aimless is that their acquaintances are either dead, in prison, or fighting in Iraq; and, even in Los Angeles, drugs and guns are easier to come by than jobs.