Tag Archives: Freddy Rodriguez

Harsh Times (2005) Review

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Harsh Times

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains violence,offensive language and drug use
Cast:
Christian Bale as Jim Davis
Freddy Rodriguez as Mike Alonzo
Eva Longoria as Sylvia
Tammy Trull as Marta
Director: David Ayer

Jim (Christian Bale) is a Gulf War veteran and he believes it is his sworn duty to protect Americans by policing the streets of Los Angeles. His dreams are shattered when he is rejected by the Los Angeles Police Department leaving him and his Mexican paramour in the lurch. Jim is soon offered a position in the Department of Homeland Security leading him to recruit his unemployed best friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) to carve a path of devastation across the city.

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Harsh Times was the only film from David Ayer I had yet to see. Although I know that much of the reception to much of his films has been mixed, I like most of Ayer’s other movies (with a couple of exceptions) and I’m a fan of Christian Bale, so I was looking forward to seeing what it would turn out to be, I wasn’t sure what to expect really. Harsh Times was reasonably okay, and I liked watching it, even with some of its glaring issues.

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The script is really the biggest issue of Harsh Times, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. You notice pretty early on that the dialogue is not exactly the strongest. I’ve noticed that in a lot of his written movies (with the exception of Fury, End of Watch and Training Day), the dialogue wasn’t all that great. That aside, it’s also not a movie where it’s easy to get invested in the characters. That’s mainly because there aren’t many (if any) morally good or likable characters in the movie, especially not Christian Bale’s character of Jim. They didn’t stop me from following it while watching it, but I never felt that close to the characters. I can definitely tell that it might turn some people off from it, but it didn’t affect my experience too much. At under 2 hours, it kept me reasonably interested from beginning to end.

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Christian Bale is an incredible actor, and while I wouldn’t rank his work here among his best performances (maybe just outside of the top 10), he’s still great here. While he could easily be an annoying character to have to follow (and with some not so good dialogue), Bale makes him work. He’s driving so much of the movie and holding things together. It may be well worth seeing Harsh Times just for his performance. Freddy Rodriguez was also good as the co-lead, who has almost as much screentime as Bale. The two of them are very convincing as friends, they share some great chemistry. They particularly gets to have some emotional moments towards the end. There isn’t much to say about the rest of the cast, but brief appearances from the likes of Terry Crews and J.K. Simmons were nice to see.

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David Ayer directed Harsh Times well, for a debut movie effort, he did a pretty good job. It’s not amazing, but it works well enough right for this story. It’s not a great looking movie by any means, but that sort of works for the gritty tone and story of the film. There is some slightly annoying editing when it comes to Bale’s character having some breakdowns. I get the point of them, and you don’t really see too much of it, but the way those moments were handled just felt a little over the top.

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Harsh Times is another David Ayer movie which works just fine. I thought it was pretty decent, Ayer directed it well enough, and the story was enough to keep me watching from beginning to end, even if I wasn’t invested in the characters all that much. It does have its very notable flaws however, mostly with regards to the script, and it isn’t one that you must go out and see immediately. However, I think it still might be worth checking out for Christian Bale’s performance at the very least.

Planet Terror (2007)

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Planet Terror

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling
Freddy Rodriguez as Wray
Josh Brolin as Dr William Block
Marley Shelton as Dr Dakota Block
Jett Fahey as J.T.
Michael Biehn as Sheriff Hague
Naveen Andrews as Abby
Bruce Willis as Lieutenant Muldoon
Director: Robert Rodriguez

In Texas, a gang lead by a black market dealer Abby (Naveen Andrews) faces a group of renegade militaries leaded by Captain Muldoon (Bruce Willis). During their shootout, Abby shoots a recipient of biological weapon, which releases an experimental gas that turns humans to flesh-eating zombies. When the outbreak affects most of the local population, a group of people lead by the mechanic Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn), the stripper Cherry (Rose McGowan) and Dr. Dakota (Marley Shelton) fight to survive and become the last hope to save the world.

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Planet Terror is the first part in the Grindhouse pack, paired with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. As I pointed out in my Death Proof review, Quentin Tarantino’s movie unfortunately failed to entertain or interest me in the slightest and ended up as a bore. Planet Terror however is very entertaining and knows exactly what it is supposed to be. It’s a blood and gore drenched ride that doesn’t have a dull moment that will be entertaining for those who will be able to stomach it.

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The movie can be cheesy but that adds to the style; nothing is played straight. To give you an idea of the level of how unrealistic it can be, Rose McGowan’s character’s character has her leg removed (not spoiling anything) and near the end of the movie has a gun attached to where it should be before shooting a whole lot of zombies without even pulling the trigger. It is also at times self aware, in fact that there is a moment in the film where the screen shows ‘Missing film reel’ in the middle of a scene. The dialogue in exploitation movies are often bad, but here it’s quite good, if a bit cheesy at times. The film isn’t just constant action and violence, it has explosive moments, hilarious moments, disgusting moments and occasionally, shocking moments. There were some scenes which I felt could’ve been cut out (most notably one with a child and a gun) which wouldn’t have really changed the movie but overall the writing is actually better than most exploitation movies.

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Exploitation movies don’t really have great performances (they are in fact bad most of the time) but Planet Terror does have some decent performances. Rose McGowan does a pretty good job as the main character, even better when she’s in the action scenes with her gun-leg. Other actors like Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Marley Shelton and Josh Brolin are also good in their roles.

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This is so far the bloodiest movie I’ve seen and I’ve seen Kill Bill and Django Unchained. All of the zombies are really designed with a lot of detail and are made as disgusting as possible. Like Death Proof, this does have a hazy camera filter but this time it stays throughout the whole movie and in my opinion, is used much better. The action scenes are well filmed, though keep in mind a lot of it is intentionally blown out of proportion, though you’ve probably figured that out already; they were never going for any realism (I once again draw attention to the gun for a leg).

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It is a better tribute to exploitation movies than Death Proof. The reason I give this film a higher score than most people would rate it is because of how it managed to entertain me. It’s not a movie that I think everyone should watch; if you hate these types of movies, nothing’s going to change your mind. However, if you are a fan of Grindhouse movies, it’s worth checking out, I haven’t watched any exploitation movies before and I had a great time with it. This movie isn’t great and isn’t going to win awards but it was never meant to; what makes it entertaining is the fact that it knows what it’s supposed to be and it delivers in that regard.