Days Of Grace

Days Of Grace


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

With a frantic pace and frenetic style, Everardo Valerio Gout directs as though he may never get another chance, throwing just about everything he can at his first feature - and quite a lot of what he throws is impressive, even if he sometimes tries just a little too hard. There's no doubting his narrative bravery, either, taking on not one but three time periods - each centred on a World Cup - and populating them with enough crime stories to fill three features.

The barrios here may be in Mexico, but they share a lot in common with their Brazillian cousins in Elite Squad and City Of God. Things are bad down there and its tough to stay clean. Lupe (Tenoch Huerta) is on the right side of the law but he's not above giving kids a scare if he thinks it'll keep them straight, first petrifying young boy Doroteo and then gifting him a bullet and a stiff warning about keeping out of trouble. As we watch his cop car drive over a bridge on the way to a hospital where his son is about to be born, the camera slides down to the underpass where the, now teenage, Doroteo (Kristian Ferrer) is trying out some boxing moves, while his friends try to coerce him into helping them get hold of some easy cash.

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Kidnap is the name of the game and everyone except Lupe is on the take. Gout, meanwhile, joins one of the taken, Arturo (Carlos Bardem), thrusting us behind his knitted hood and letting us hear his inner voice as he tries to stay alive in the face of his captors and sometime torturers. Meanwhile housewife Susana (Dolores Hereida) attempts to negotiate her husband's release as a cloud of suspicion lurks over her maid (Eilen Yanez).

If that sounds simple, it is far from it and Gout's heady camerawork and serpentine plot - also involving Lupe's dodgy cop partner and an all-Sikh gang - throw you around like a pea in a drum. The result is a tense and invogorating ride, in the same sort of spirit as Johnnie To's cop thrillers.

Gout may sometimes get too showy for his own good, determinedly working through every trick in the book, but when he hits on an idea that works, such as a fabulous pan around a room as it ages before our eyes or some well-chosen aerial shots of the barrios, the result is exhilarating. There's also an interesting idea of the cyclical nature of crime lurking in the background, even if Gout is more interested in delivering the next genre thrill. He also somehow manages to wrangle his multiple storylines to a satisfying climax that invites multiple viewings. Now that he's surely got just about everything out of his system, it'll be interesting if he can distil what's good and reign in his OTT tendencies for his next project.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2013
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Kidnappings take place in Mexico during three World Cups.
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Director: Everardo Valerio Gout

Writer: Everardo Valerio Gout, David Rutsala

Starring: Tenoch Huerta, Kristian Ferrer, Dolores Heredia, Carlos Bardem, Eilen Yanez, Mario Zaragoza, José Sefami

Year: 2011

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: Mexico


EIFF 2013

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If you like this, try:

Election 2
Elite Squad