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Days of Grace

A crime epic based in Mexico City, Everardo Gout's "Days of Grace," is insanely over-the-top, offering up action-packed scenes with a little soccer thrown into the trigger-happy film.

With:
With: Tenoch Huerta, Carlos Bardem, Dolores Heredia, Kristian Ferrer, Eilen Yanez, Mario Zaragoza, Jose Sefami, Sonia Couho, Veronica Falcon, Vikram Chatwal. (Spanish dialogue)

Set in Mexico City, the loco crime epic “Days of Grace” chaotically juggles ultraviolent action amid three televised Soccer World Cup seasons four years apart. What the sport has to do with jacked-up cops, badass crooks and a brutally pulverized hostage matters less than first-time writer-director Everardo Gout’s desire to get his kicks wherever he can. Best when it’s insanely over-the-top, Gout’s intermittently engaging pic often resembles a trigger-happy 1990s Hong Kong thriller, and even culminates in a triangular faceoff. Its midnight screening at Cannes seems a harbinger of cult-film status, if not killer B.O. outside Mexico.

Comparing himself to a wild hyena, Gout’s cop protagonist Lupo Esparza (Tenoch Huerta) begins the pic terrorizing a pair of preteen pot dealers, circa 2002, forcing them to disrobe at gunpoint. Four years later, one of these kids, nicknamed Iguana (Kristian Ferrer), is among the goons who kidnap, chain and torture a wealthy actor, Arturo (Carlos Bardem), in a dungeon setting well suited to a “Hostel” film. The actor’s wife Susana (Dolores Heredia) factors in the third of Gout’s interwoven stories, set in 2010, as does her pregnant housemaid Max (Eilen Yanez).

All this meaty pulp would be plenty for most action-film directors to chew, but Gout gorges himself further with vaguely coherent subplots involving a distaff crime boss, a boxer, and Esparza’s delivery of a mysterious package on behalf of a bedridden fellow cop. Esparza insists he knows who’s behind the kidnapping, although with so much subsidiary mayhem going on, his attention is understandably split — plus there’s a rat (or two or three) in the ranks.

The pic’s frenzied parallel action is none too clearly delineated, although Gout’s tripartite narrative does at least inspire a nifty 360-degree pan around a dingy room that appears to age eight years in the course of 10 seconds. Elsewhere the film’s flashy style is hit-or-miss, involving too many pseudo-poetically blurry images and handheld shakycam shots.

Colors do pop, however, and the soundtrack booms, thanks to intense, bass-heavy scores composed for each of the film’s three parts by the likes of Nick Cave and Atticus Ross. Pop music and a severed body part combine in one scene that Gout sloppily pilfers from “Reservoir Dogs.” On balance, tech credits are as uneven as the screenplay.

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Days of Grace

Mexico-France

Production: An ARP release of a Dias De Gracia Producciones presentation of a Casa B, ARP production, in association with Fidecine, Eficine 226, Arte Mecanica. (International sales: Kinology, Paris.) Produced by Leopoldo Gout, Everardo Gout, Ozcar Ramirez, Luis Sansans. Executive producer, Adriana Bello. Co-producers, Michele Petin, Laurent Petin. Directed, written by Everardo Gout.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Luis Sansans; editors, Herve Schneid, Jose Salcedo; music, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Atticus Ross, Shigeru Umebayashi; art director, Jay Aroesty; set designer, Bernardo Trujillo; costume designer, Bertha Romero; sound (DTS/Dolby SRD), Vincent Arnardi; associate producer, Vikram Chatwal; assistant director, Victor Herrera; casting, Sandra Leon Becker. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Midnight Screenings), May 18, 2011. Running time: 132 MIN.

Cast: With: Tenoch Huerta, Carlos Bardem, Dolores Heredia, Kristian Ferrer, Eilen Yanez, Mario Zaragoza, Jose Sefami, Sonia Couho, Veronica Falcon, Vikram Chatwal. (Spanish dialogue)

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