Parents' Guide to

Harsh Times

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Complex, mature story of a Gulf War vet in crisis.

Movie R 2006 120 minutes
Harsh Times Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 1 parent review

age 15+

War Veteran Suffers From GWS in L.A.

Harsh Times is the story of a Gulf War veteran suffering from traumatic experiences in the war, trying to settle down back at home. The acting is solid and the story runs at a steady pace, until the end, when the story speeds up and attempts a more suspenseful turn. Fans of Training Day will certainly enjoy this movie, as there are many similarities. Parents should know that there is violence, sexual references, drug use, and F-words to a point where you no longer notice it. Violence includes bloody warfare, bloody shootouts, brutal fist fights, a man getting stabbed in the neck, another getting shot in the back with a shotgun, a man being forced to kill his friend, and a man threatening to kill his pregnant wife. There are few good characters, and they are abused by everyone else. The two main characters cheat their way into work, steal drugs, run drugs across the U.S./Mexican border, smoke weed, meth, and cigarettes, drink and drive, abuse their spouses, and kill people. There are an uncountable number of profanities (296 F-words) and many authority figures are corrupt. As a last note, Parents should think twice before letting young kids watch this movie.

This title has:

Too much swearing

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1):
Kids say: Not yet rated

As its title suggests, Harsh Times is a dark, rough movie. It makes the case that Jim's combat experience is of a piece with his life as a young man in urban Los Angeles. As bad as Jim and Mike might want to be, the film insists that their ugliness and mischief are small-time compared to the havoc wreaked by socially approved bodies, from the cops to corporations to the government. Inside these hallowed institutions, Harsh Times shows, men swagger and commit crimes under the color of law and the approval of their fellows.

The film sets up all Jim's confrontations and options in racially marked terms -- Marta, Mike, the "homeboys," and the new job all set him off as lonely, white, and hypermasculine, still feeling bereft and still looking for acceptance. While it doesn't fully pursue the point, Harsh Times at least raises the specter of racism and sexism in the culture that made a man like Jim.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: November 10, 2006
  • On DVD or streaming: March 13, 2007
  • Cast: Christian Bale, Eva Longoria, Freddy Rodriguez
  • Director: David Ayer
  • Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
  • Studio: MGM/UA
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 120 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: for strong violence, language and drug use.
  • Last updated: April 4, 2023

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