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'Harsh Times'

Cops-gone-wild movies are the Angry White Guy counterpoint to thug-life melodramas. This caffeinated fit of antihero worship—the directorial debut of screenwriter David Ayer, who made detective with his bad-cop thrillers Training Day and Dark Blue—straddles the genres: A ballistic ex-ranger (Christian Bale) embarks on a substance-abusing sojourn through South Central, followed by the inevitable cathartic violence. But whatever political statement Ayer intended to make with his Gulf War veteran turned human time bomb is swamped by the movie's obnoxious badass envy, and Bale's gloating display of American-psycho fireworks, the kind of vein-popping show-boating that might as well be performed in a mirror.


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