It's a furious battle between over-the-top stylization and moralistic storytelling in the eye-popping, violent Mexican epic "Days of Grace."
First-time writer-director Everardo Gout jams together three interconnected kidnapping sagas set in different years, each during the World Cup, when criminal activity typically subsides.
In 2002, a dedicated cop and new dad (Tenoch Huerta) joins a secret squad dedicated to virulently rooting out kidnappers. In 2006, our viewpoint is that of a wealthy abductee (Carlos Bardem) as he susses out his captors, one of whom is a young boy (Kristyan Ferrer). In 2010, a hostage's wife (Dolores Heredia) learns some disturbing secrets trying to scare up a ransom.
Though the soccer metaphor is a poetic reach, Gout's all-you-can-eat camera and cutting sensibility — mixed-focus shots, shaky cam, virtuoso long takes, aspect ratio changes — can often feel like its own commentary on dealing with a national scourge of rampant corruption, violence and tragedy: What's supposed to work?
Mostly, however, Gout undermines his own spiky, ambitious narrative with all the visual interference, as dazzling as it often is. (The grainy, saturated colors, in particular, pop and bleed with equal ferocity.)
Intimate, frenzied and ultimately too chaotic to have real effect, "Days of Grace" is calling-card directorial dynamism with a fourth captive in mind: the moviegoer.
"Days of Grace"
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes.
Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles.