Total Film - 08/01/2006 3 stars out of 5 -- "As another reminder of Christian Bale's prodigious talent...it succeeds with bracing impact."
Sight and Sound - 09/01/2006
"[T]he real driving force is Christian Bale's turn as Jim....Bale flaunts his range throughout, tipping from tender to slyly persuasive to stark staring mad."
Uncut - 09/01/2006
"[HARSH TIMES] ratchets up its intense, buzzy, nervy vibe to powerful effect."
Entertainment Weekly - 11/17/2006
"All eyes are riveted on Christian Bale....Bale is mesmerizing and Rodriguez keeps up with him." -- Grade: B+
Ultimate DVD - 06/01/2007 4 stars out of 5 -- "[Ayer] has made a remarkable directorial debut. He clearly knows his stuff, as the LA locale is gritty and visceral, and his performers seem utterly at home in this dangerous environment."
Haunted by nightmares from his murderous military past, the honorably discharged Jim (Christian Bale) spends his time between his impoverished fiancee in rural Mexico and cruising the streets of east L.A., knocking back beers and smoking joints with his buddy Mike (Freddy Rodriguez). They also pawn a gun, run into some trouble with a jealous gangster, and fool Mike's girlfriend (Eva Longoria) into thinking he's actually dropping off resumes instead of getting drunk and high with his buddy. Homeland Security meanwhile wants to recruit Jim for some special ops in Central America, but first he has to pass a urine test.
This is the directorial debut of David Ayer, who wrote TRAINING DAY, which this film resembles with its smog-saturated cinematography and loving attention to the minutiae of male bonding and "homey codes" in and around L.A.'s inner-city drug culture. One never knows where the story is going, or what's around the next corner in this off-center yarn, and Ayer captures that uneasy feeling of cruising through a bad part of town in a car with someone who you slowly realize cannot be trusted. Christian Bale delivers, as usual, a towering performance: growing progressively more disturbed as the film goes on, he weeps, roars, struts, shouts and flips out, maintaining audience sympathy all the while.