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.