He did quite well in Empire of the Sun, and I hear well in the Machinist. I still think the main issue was not with Bale (though he didn't do much to improve it), but the script for his character didn't really provide emotional variance that other screenplays may have. You may also have an issue with the director wanting a certain type of acting from Bale to give a greater contrast with Crowe's character and to a certain point, Bale's son. If I recall correctly, the son showed a wide range of emotion who could have been the symbolic stand in for Bale's characters emotion, sometimes in films they do that sort of thing that makes it difficult to gauge (though it could just be bad acting). On a side note, while not particularly notable acting job, I actually enjoyed Bale in Equilibrium and somewhat less noticed performance in The Prestige (personally liked the trading positions of Bale/Jackman).