In South Central Los Angeles, the unbalanced, deranged and neurotic ex-Ranger Jim Luther Davis (Christian Bale) meets his best friend Miguel 'Mike' Alonzo (Freddy Rodríguez) to drink beers and smoke joint. Jim is expecting to join the LAPD to marry his Mexican girlfriend Marta (Tammy Trull) while Mike is being pressured by his mate Sylvia (Eva Longoria) to find a job.
When Jim is refused by the police department, he becomes furious and begins a series of violent actions until he is called by the Federal agency and assigned to work in Colombia. Meanwhile, Mike gets a dream job, making Sylvia happy. Jim invites the weak Mike and their friend Toussant (Chaka Forman) to spend the weekend in Mexico. After some incidents, Jim returns bringing 20 kg of marijuana to Los Angeles, leading to a tragic end.
"Harsh Times" is a dramatic good movie based on two unpleasant characters. Jim Luther Davis, brilliantly performed by Christian Bale, is an unbalanced man, a former soldier with strong psychological problems, actually a sequel of war associated to his intelligence, his formation in a bad neighborhood and lack of opportunities in his civilian life. Mike Alonzo, performed by Freddy Rodríguez, is a man with a weak personality and with an exaggerated machismo, also fruit of his formation in a bad neighborhood, and absolutely influenced by Jim.
Together, they steal, fight, drink booze, smoke pot, do not respect women, therefore they are really scum. Along a couple of days, the viewer follows their "adventures" in this powerful and non-optimistic realistic film.