Two Days in the Valley
1996, R, 104 min. Directed by John Herzfeld. Starring Danny Aiello, Greg Cruttwell, Jeff Daniels, Teri Hatcher, Glenne Headly, Peter Horton, Marsha Mason, Paul Mazursky, James Spader, Eric Stoltz, Charlize Theron.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 27, 1996
A fine ensemble cast compensates for the narrative paucity of 2 Days in the Valley -- the current winner of the “hit man crime/comedy of the month” sweepstakes. (Is it just me, or does it seem as though a strange new sub-genre has been spun off the success of movies like Pulp Fiction and Fargo?) When aspects of the hit that occurs right at the beginning of 2 Days in the Valley begin to turn sour, they cause the lives of a great number of unrelated San Fernando Valley residents to collide. Hit men Lee Woods (Spader) and Dosmo Pizzo (Aiello) murder the husband of an Olympic skier (Hatcher); then young, smooth sicko Lee offs his partner and witness -- old-time, Italian has-been Dosmo -- so that he can run off with all the loot and his stunning, though equally twisted, girlfriend Helga (newcomer Theron)… or so he thinks. Drawn into the caper are an intolerably rude and self-centered art dealer who is even more obnoxious than usual due to the pain of passing a kidney stone (Cruttwell), the art dealer's meek and complacent assistant (Headley) and his sister (Mason) who, conveniently, is also a nurse, and the desperate, out-of-work Hollywood director who hasn't had a hit in so long that people can only remember his failures (Mazursky). Also tripping into the plot are a mismatched pair of detectives played by Daniels and Stoltz. Brief character cameos from Keith Carradine, Louise Fletcher, and Austin Pendleton additionally dot the movie. What 2 Days in the Valley possesses in spades is characters. Individually, collectively, they are what enables this movie to hiccup along at an amusing pace. And even though all the characters are not equally interesting, each one has at least a moment or two that wriggles its way into your imagination. In between, you're left with this limp plot about one hit man with a heart of glass and another with a heart of gold. Spader brings more style than substance to his silver-tongued sociopath, though Aiello hits a pleasing note with his tough-guy front and his respectful and romantic treatment of Headley's brow-beaten assistant who, in turn, charmingly blossoms under his attention. Mason is provided with too little to do and Daniels is stuck with a dark plot line that effectively draws him further from the story than toward its center. Stoltz, as always, lends strong character support, and I guess it's of interest that during an opening massage-parlor scene, Stoltz rises (quite literally and indiscreetly) to the occasion. The movie also features a knock-down drag-out between the decidedly un-Lois-Laneish Hatcher and the visually arresting Theron. On the whole, there are some good moments in the movie, but altogether, 2 Days in the Valley is about one day too much.