No list of 2006's most overlooked movies would be complete without Harsh Times
, the cathartic and compulsively watchable directorial debut from Training Day
screenwriter David Ayer. This gritty crime film vanished from cinemas in a blip, and with it Christian Bale's best performance, maybe ever (even topping The Machinist
). He is transformed into ' nay, possessed by ' his troubled character, a Gulf War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He's trying to score a job with the LAPD so he can marry his Mexican girlfriend. When he's rejected by the force, he slips into his old habits of crime, drugs and alcoholism, with military flashbacks recurring ever more frequently, full of wild-eyed visions of blood lust. He drags his easily pressured best friend, Mike (Freddy Rodríguez), along on his inevitable crash and burn. A more searing and realistic vision of California's melting pot than the soapbox-scripted Crash
, Harsh Times
is also an implicit indictment of a military system that breeds its soldiers into killing machines and spits them back home without proper care. Harsh times indeed. The DVD includes a commentary track from Ayer and a few perfunctory deleted scenes.