Dias contados (1994)
Pros: Gómez, Bardem, gratuitous female nudity
The Spanish “Running Out of Time,” “Días contados” (1994; there is also a 1999 Hong Kong one that I like better; “Numbered Days” is a more literal translation of “Días contados”) to have been made to show Ruth Gabriel’s body. Except for the bottom of her feet and the top of her head, all of it is displayed. In some scenes she is topless, in others bottomless, and is completely nude for extended stretches of the movie. Her character, Charo, is a heroin user who is not quite addicted and a sex worker who is not quite a prostitute. She is mostly an erotic dancer, while her nymphomaniac friend Vanessa (Candela Peña) provides the blow jobs.
The protagonist, Antonio (Carmelo Gómez [El portero] with a constant 3-day stubble) is a Basque (ETA) terrorist, come to Madrid to blow up a police station. He occupies the apartment next to Charo, who soon shoots up, takes a bath, and poses for photographs in his bathroom.
Antonio does not seem to believe in what he does (kill Spanish policemen, blow up things in the name of Basque independence), but has some interest in sex, albeit with sex workers rather than with his terrorist colleague and former bedmate Lourdes (Elvira Mínguez [Tapas, Pudor]).
Antonio’s nihilism (no doubt, he is supposed to be numbed by violence by and against ETA) and the look of the rundown Madrid neighborhood seem right out of a Luc Besson movie, “Léon, the Professional” for instance, though Charo is older and far more jaded than Natalie Portman’s character in “Léon.”
Javier Bardem is on hand as a very creepy pimp and police informer and heroin addict with rotted teeth. Aptly, he is called Lisardo. And there is a dealer called Portugues (Chacho Carreras) who endures more unpleasantness than he is shown providing.
The ending is predictable—not from early on, but no surprise. I would have liked more insight into why Antonio does what he does, but Imanol Uribe seems French in his lack of interest in character psychology. There is much less violence in “Días contados” than in any of the Besson movies I’ve seen.
Bardem appeared in what I think is a more interesting Spanish movie about urban terrorism, “The Dancer Upstairs” directed by John Malkovich from a novel by Nicholas Shakespeare.
The DVD includes a making-of feature and a trailer.