Days Of Grace (Dias De Gracia) (R15)

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The ViewQueenstown Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/07/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 133 mins

Days of Grace is a stylishly directed, slickly edited Mexican thriller with a strong central performance from Tenoch Huerta, but the pacing drags in the early stages, the characters are thinly sketched and the impact of the dialogue has been diluted by a shoddy subtitling job.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by first-timer Everardo Valerio Gout, Days of Grace (or Dias de Gracia, original title fans) is a cop/kidnap thriller set in Mexico City over three separate timelines, each of which takes place during a World Cup tournament. In 2002, hard-boiled cop Lupe (Tenoch Huerta) attempts to scare a young boy named Doroteo straight as a favour to his father; he subsequently gets promoted to Commander Jose's (Jose Sefami) team of anti-corruption ‘Dorados’, but gets more than he bargained for when he's drawn into a case involving kidnapping and drugs.

In 2006, an unnamed businessman (Carlos Bardem) is kidnapped and held in a room by a mysterious masked man known only as Teacher, his thuggish henchman Pulga (Harold Torres) and a now teenage Doroteo (Kristyan Ferrer). And in 2010, when another businessman is kidnapped, his wife Susana (Dolores Heredia) attempts to raise the money, while her maid Maxi (Eileen Yanez) wonders whether her brother Doroteo might be involved.

The Good
Gout's ultra-stylised direction is extremely impressive throughout, employing multiple perspectives, a variety of different techniques (slow motion, steadicam shots, etc) and skilful editing so that all three stories sort of smash into each other and unfold simultaneously. He also pulls off a number of clever twists and the visceral action sequences are excitingly handled.

Tenoch Huerta is excellent as Lupe and there's strong support from both Mario Zaragoza (as his corrupt colleague Melquiadez) and Sefami as Commander Jose. In addition, the script makes good use of its football backdrop, giving Bardem's businessman and Doroteo something to bond over, while suggesting that Mexico is so football-obsessed that both criminals and cops alike are distracted during World Cup season (cue the action breaking off every so often for someone to shout ‘GOAL!’).

The Bad
The main problem is that the film feels overbalanced; Lupe's story in 2002 is infinitely more gripping than either the 2006 kidnap storyline or the events in 2010 – this is partly because we get to know so few of the characters in 2006, since Teacher and Bardem's character wear masks for the majority of their screentime. Similarly, the pacing drags considerably in the early stages (nothing seems to happen in 2006 and 2010 for at least forty minutes or so), so the film feels overly long at two hours plus.

On top of that, the English language subtitles have taken out almost all the swearing, which heavily dilutes the impact of the dialogue (though, admittedly, there is swearing in almost every line).

Worth seeing?
Days of Grace (Dias de Gracia) is a stylishly directed and skilfully edited debut that marks writer-director Gout out as a future talent to watch. Worth seeing.

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Days Of Grace (Dias De Gracia) (R15)
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Content updated: 22/07/2018 22:56

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