Jim Davis (Christian Bale) is a former U.S. Army Ranger who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Jim has a Mexican girlfriend, Marta (Tammy Trull), whom he is determined to marry, and bring into the United States to start a life together. With this in mind, Jim returns to Los Angeles, California.
In Los Angeles, Jim meets up with his best friend Mike Alonzo (Freddy Rodriguez). Mike's longtime girlfriend, Sylvia (Eva Longoria), a young attorney, is "on the warpath" over his failure to get a job (his previous job was outsourced) and she encourages Jim to help Mike hand out resumes. After being denied a position in the Los Angeles Police Department for failing the psychological profile, Jim gets drunk with Mike, forgetting all about the resumes.
The two go to visit Jim's ex-girlfriend, but when her current boyfriend shows up, a fight ensues in which the boyfriend is backed up by a group of friends. Jim is able to get the upper hand and when Mike produces a gun, they subdue the men and rob them of their possessions, including marijuana and a handgun which they later decide to sell. Jim later leaves messages on Mike's answering machine with several different voices, pretending to be companies responding to his resume.
The next day, when Jim goes to visit Mike, he finds Sylvia in a surprisingly good mood due to the callbacks. Jim and Mike end up wasting the day again, getting a friend of theirs to leave another message on Mike's answering machine. They then go to a "paisa" bar to try to sell the gun, but leave after their potential buyer is stabbed in the neck and killed. Mike is horrified, but Jim is strangely excited by witnessing death again.
When Mike arrives back home drunk, Sylvia is upset, so Mike plays back the answering machine, unaware that his friend didn't hang up early enough and his voice is heard on the tape. Sylvia is enraged and throws Mike out of the house. He goes and stays at Jim's place. Jim gets shortlisted for a position with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and after cheating on a urine test, it appears that he is going to be given a position.
Jim manages to pass the urinalysis test, but subsequently fails a polygraph test due to a question about his drug use. The only hope left for him is a government agent working out of Colombia, who appreciates Jim's ability to "get things done"; Jim eventually accepts the position but is warned that he must not get married to a foreigner; his security clearance might be revoked. Jim is told to report to FLETC in a few days. Meanwhile, Mike gets a job when a company he applies at is now managed by an old friend.
Jim goes to visit Marta along with Mike and another one of their friends, but before they leave, Mike goes to visit Sylvia and tells her that he has a job for real. She calms down and the two make love. Impatient, Jim goes inside and tells Sylvia that Mike is coming to Mexico with him for the weekend, as it is their last chance to hang out. Sylvia is angry and very much against the idea, and so Jim yells at both her and Mike. Mike decides to go with Jim to Mexico.
The trio arrive in Mexico, where they spend a relaxing night and morning the next day, preparing for a big party that night. At the party, Marta reveals that she is pregnant, and Jim responds violently, threatening to punch her in the stomach and shoot her in the head; in the end, this is a result of Jim's severe PTSD.
On the way back, Jim reveals that he is transporting 20 kilos of marijuana, much to Mike's dismay. When Mike protests, Jim pulls a gun on him, flashing back, before breaking down in tears, horrified at what he is becoming. Mike, filled with pity for his friend, agrees to accompany Jim to the deal after all. When they arrive to sell the drugs, they realize one of the buyers was the same man they had earlier robbed and beaten, the boyfriend of Jim's old flame.
Hostility ensues with both Jim and the other gang members pulling out guns, resulting in the other man's death. The other members of the buying party present plead for their lives, but Jim kills them while suffering flashbacks due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While Jim and Mike are escaping in the car, a man from inside the house steps out and shoots at the car with an Armsel Striker; Jim is hit in the back and the side of his face, and subsequently paralyzed.
He urges Mike to "step up" and shoot him, thus ending his suffering. After some hesitation, Mike and Jim say their goodbyes and Mike ends up killing Jim. The film ends with Mike returning to Sylvia, who was in the process of packing her belongings to leave for good. They embrace together as Mike breaks down crying.Christian Bale as Jim Davis
Freddy Rodriguez as Mike Alonzo
Eva Longoria as Sylvia
Tammy Trull as Marta
Terry Crews as Darrell
Samantha Esteban as Letty
Tania Verafield as Patty
Noel Gugliemi as Flaco
Chaka Forman as Toussant
Adriana Millan as Rita
César García Gómez as Listo
Blue Mesquita as Leo
Craig Ricci Shaynak as Gillespie
Michael Monks as Agent Hollenbreck
J.K. Simmons as Agent Richards
Armando Riesco as Alex
Emilio Rivera as Eddy
Sonia Iris Lozada as Gracie
The DVD was released on March 13, 2007 and the HD DVD on June 12, 2007 by Genius Products and The Weinstein Company. The film itself was presented in anamorphic widescreen, along with English language and Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1. Surround tracks. Special features included seven deleted scenes and a feature length audio commentary by David Ayer. The HD DVD is presented in 1080p with a MPEG-4 AVC encoding and has a Dolby TrueHD track in addition to a Dolby Digital Plus track for its audio. Additionally, the film was released on Blu-ray Disc in Germany by Splendid Entertainment on August 26, 2008. It is presented in 1080p with two DTS-HD 5.1 tracks in English and German.
Distributor Alliance Atlantis released Harsh Times on Blu-ray in Canada roughly a year later on September 15, 2009. Thit edition is presented in a 1080p transfer utilizing the AVC codec, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack in English, and two Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks in English and French. Most recently, On December 14, 2010, Vivendi Entertainment brought Harsh Times to Blu-ray in the United States, sporting a new 1080p AVC transfer, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 English soundtrack and standard Dolby Digital 2.0 track in Spanish, and English subtitles. Three extras, previously available on the U.S. DVD, are also included: An audio commentary with writer/director/producer David Ayer, seven deleted scenes, and a making-of documentary.
MGM Studios made Harsh Times available on Hulu on August 30, 2010. Its first Television Broadcast Internationally was on MGM'S Film and TV Network This TV on May 16, 2013.
The reaction from audiences and critics were mixed. Christian Bale won praise for his portrayal of Jim. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 48% of reviews of the film were positive.