Benicio Del Toro has the basset-hound look of a beast you can trust -- or, at least, he'll happily admit when he's lying. He's the right man for a rotten world, with heavy-lidded, handsome eyes made for giving any tough spot an appraising squint.
In Fernando León de Aranoa's cynical comedy A Perfect Day, Del Toro is on the good side for once as a foreign aid worker stationed in the Balkans in 1995. The joke is, his good intentions don't matter. Like the Yugoslav Wars as a whole -- then taking a brief lull for the hammering out of a peace accord that would eventually be broken as the fighting shifted to Kosovo -- Del Toro's Mambrú believes his battle is almost finished. In one week, he'll be home with his girlfriend, the script's disembodied representation of domesticity.
A Perfect Day is a wry salute to the hard-drinking, eye-rolling aid workers of the world, men and women whose high ideals get crushed by global bureaucracy and local recalcitrance. The day's challenge sounds simple. Mambrú and his partners B (Tim Robbins) and Sophie (Mélanie Thierry) -- he's an adrenaline junkie, she's a utopian naif -- must get a corpse out of a town's only well. Alas, in scene one, their rope breaks. From there, the script takes more perilous twists than the Balkans' mountain roads as the threesome and their translator Damir (Fedja Stukan) pick up passengers Nikola (Eldar Residovic), a village boy, and Katya (Olga Kurylenko), a UN evaluator who also happens to be Mambrú's jilted fling, all only to crash into one obstacle after another, each near Chekhovian in its dismal everyday absurdity.