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2 Days in the Valley (1996)


If you’ve seen the trailer, the #1 question on your mind about 2 Days in the Valley must be: Is it a Pulp Fictionrip-off, or is it a bad Pulp Fiction rip-off?

Well, the answer is this: Yes, it’s a shameless Pulp Fictionrip-off (more like Pulp Fiction meets Short Cuts), but it’s actually quite entertaining, in its own quirky little way.

In fact, 2 Days in the Valley is the best (and possibly the last [hint, hint]) of these knockoffs to come down the interstate. The only problem is that writer/director John Herzfeld forgot one critical part: a cool soundtrack! The main difficult with 2 Days is an uncommonly lousy score that kills the suspense and the comedy with equal ability.

But let’s talk about the good parts, those mainly being the rich characters Herzfeld has created to act out his play. (Please pay attention.) It starts with Peter Horton (gets shot early on, a very big plus) as a deadbeat husband to downhill skier/aspiring scam artist Teri Hatcher. James Spader (by far the most fun of the film) and newcomer Charlize Theron as Hatcher’s partners in crime. Danny Aiello as an aging hitman working with Spader. Naked‘s Greg Cruttwell as Aiello’s whining hostage. Glenne Headly as Cruttwell’s bookish assistant. Marsha Mason as Cruttwell’s nurse/half-sister. Paul Mazursky as a suicidal Hollywood has-been who is picked up by Mason. And Jeff Daniels and Eric Stoltz (the only Pulp veteran in the show) as hapless cops on to all of these characters. (Plus there are at least three good cameos.)

Whew! D’you catch all that? It’s easier than it sounds, trust me — in fact, the fun of 2 Days is watching all the pieces come together via a mixture of slapstick comedy, generally witty dialogue, and blackly comedic gunfights, fistfights, dogfights, catfights, and any other kind of fight you can think of. All the while, Herzfeld manages to weave in unexpectedly powerful themes of bygone happiness, greed, and desperation… and The Valley. And Herzfeld manages to pack all of this into a very tight 105 minutes. There’s very little wasted footage on the screen, which is hard to say about many directors today.

It winds up as a solid picture that is probably accessible to a wider audience than Pulp Fiction was — there were plenty of squeamish girly types in the crowd, and no one walked out. And I was actually expecting a bad movie! Go figure.

[Food for thought: When was the last time you could get gas in Los Angeles for $1.07, as is seen in the film? Talk amongst yourselves.]

The line: Hatcher in 6 rounds. Never mind MGM’s typo (it’s Theron, not Heron).