If you avert your eyes for more than a millisecond during Everardo Valerio Gout’s Days of Grace, the film will make less sense than if it were projected in reverse. If you take your Ritalin, though, you’ll be rewarded with much unnerving, innovative derring-do, if not a wholly satisfying affair.
The three story lines unfold in Mexico City in three separate years — 2002, 2006, and 2010 — all during the World Cup, all involving brutal kidnappings. Even subtle visual cues are scarce: Since the characters’ fashion styles don’t change, you need to catch, for a punishingly long time, every lightning-fast soccer game announcement or title card to distinguish between vignettes. Unlike in similarly non-sequential films, like those of Alejandro González Iñárritu, here it takes more than half the two-hour running time for the stories to overlap.
They do so rather crudely, with many plot threads left unexplored (it’s curious why a film this furious about mounting crime rates spends so little time on the victims themselves). The only figures with any depth are Lupe (Tenoch Huerta), a short-tempered but well-meaning cop eventually destroyed by police corruption, and Doroteo (Kristyan Ferrer), a young aspiring boxer tempted toward crime.
The violence is splattery and booming, and Gout goes for broke on the camera trickery — willfully blurry, floor-level angles; shifting between screaming breakdowns in multiple settings; cutting short blows to the face and jarring us with close-ups of the bloody aftermath. The most stunning sequence is the time-lapse transformation of the same cavernous criminal lair over the eight-year timespan. But most of this frantic moviemaking is more disorienting than riveting.