November 20, 2006 12:00 PM

Christian Bale, Freddy Rodriguez, Eva Longoria

Christian Bale is already famous for intense performances (check out The Machinist). But in his new movie, Harsh Times, he’s nothing less than a red-hot, streaking rocket as Jim Davis, an amoral Gulf War veteran who hopes to land a job serving with the Los Angeles Police Department. Unfortunately, the LAPD rightly suspects Jim may be a little psycho and rejects his application, sending him right off the deep end. With his best buddy (Rodriguez) in tow, he plunges into a frenzied couple days of drugging, robbery and other unsavory activities, leaving mayhem and destruction in his path. This guy is out of control and seriously scary. As the pal’s girlfriend (Longoria), an attorney, tells Jim, “My worst nightmare is you with a badge.”

If only the other characters in Times were as riveting. The drama, written and directed by David Ayer (who wrote Training Day), is full of sensationalistic thrills that add up to a big “So what?” Still, Bale is feverishly fierce—and Longoria and Rodriguez work to pump up anemic roles. (R)

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