FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Alfred Hitchcock |||
Alfred Hitchcock

This is perhaps an obvious choice, however, most people tend to overlook the Master of Suspense’s early work as well as the relevancy of his last film as a key element in the continuing transition and development of the genre he defined.

One of Hitchcock's early triumphs, this predecessor to the mistaken identity man on the run scenario Hitchcock turned to time and again, stars Robert Donat as the innocent wrongly accused of murder and pursued by both the police and enemy spies. This is the first example of Hitchcock’s mastery over the suspense tale, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come.

Considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest works, this story of two men who meet by chance on a train and frivolously discuss swapping murders is a prime example of a common Hitchcock theme of the man who suddenly finds himself within a nightmare world over which he has no control. You can easily see how this film lays the ground work for the more popular “North by Northwest”.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film is a light-hearted thriller involving phony psychics, kidnappers and organized religion, all of which cross paths in the search for a missing heir and a fortune in jewels. Here, Hitchcock has brilliantly developed his signature form to include the now common, and often overused, device of plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. Widescreen!

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Harsh Times

By BrianOrndorf

November 10th, 2006

The scent of peril and brotherhood is in the air in the lukewarm “Harsh Times.” If you can stomach Christian Bale attempting to act like a Mexican gangbanger, there’s a nice mix of “Training Day” leftovers to sift through in this frustratingly uneven, but still quite vivid motion picture.


Jim (Christian Bale) is an Iraq War vet unable to find the employment with the LAPD that was promised when he returned home. Angry and bitter, Jim hooks up with his friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez), another vet bullied by his overbearing girlfriend (Eva Longoria), to find a job. Suited up, and with the whole day to play with, Jim and Mike head out on the streets, soon getting caught up in drug and weapon deals, job interviews, and assorted border havoc that keeps them from focusing in on their plans for friendship and the future.

Writer David Ayer found tremendous critical and box office success with his script for “Training Day.” The gritty tale of corruption and ludicrous street justice put Ayer on the Hollywood map, so it’s hard to blame the guy for trying to recreate the same magic in his directorial debut, “Harsh Times.”

“Times” beats the same streets as “Training.” Ayer knows the topography of Los Angeles like the back of his hand, and almost casually takes Jim and Mike on a tour of the criminal underbelly of the hellish city. “Times” glides effortlessly when it settles down to observe the slacker day of danger these two ex-soldiers are engaged in, throwing away their shot at employability in an effort to maintain a bond that is being erased by adulthood and responsibility.

Things turn ugly not only quickly, but constantly for Jim and Mike, and Ayer dreams up a consistent run of back alley mischief for the duo to navigate. The performances from Rodriguez and Bale help to nudge the tension, fear, and paranoia; that is, if you can swallow Bale as a slang-throwin’, wannabe Mexican gangster. An incredibly versatile actor, Bale meets his performance limits with Jim, though the actor does achieve the necessary aggression and horror the character is defined by.

Ayer has leanings in the opening of the picture to explore Jim and Mike’s troubles finding their psychological center after their tours in Iraq. Jim is consumed by the violence he inflicted during his time in the military, but all we get of this emotional crevasse are fleeting glimpses of his nightmares. Ayer bookends the picture with Jim’s psychotic outbursts, and since the effort wasn’t made to layer this extreme behavior throughout the picture, it renders this crucial character point moot. Jim’s rage is so unattended by Ayer, the scenes slip into a feeling of screenplay mechanics, counteracting the slack, free-form appeal of the film.

“Harsh Times” certainly wins points for being a vivid evocation of Los Angeles criminal life; I only wish Ayer had stuck with the almost improvisational feeling of the film’s midsection for the whole shebang. Only there does the claustrophobic threat come to life in ways Ayer is truly gifted at creating

My rating: C+