`2 Days' falls short on originality: not quite Tarantino


by Peter Debruge

2 Days in the Valley is to in-your-face action flicks as Independence Day is to science-fiction films, with one major exception. Instead of being a tribute to great movies, 2 Days is nothing more than a copy. It lacks the originality that set apart movies like Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers.

The first thing viewers notice about 2 Days is the fact that its best scenes are merely revisions of better scenes in other movies. For instance, one is likely to get Pulp Fiction déjà vu from the very beginning of the movie when two hitmen (James Spader and Danny Aiello) sit in a car planning a murder. Their dull conversation (about what they will do if there's a dog in the house) makes you wish that they were discussing the sexual implications of foot massages or what to call a McDonald's QuarterPounder in France.

The most fascinating aspect of the movie is the way it intertwines the lives of a dozen completely different characters who really shouldn't have anything to do with each other. In fact, John Herzfeld ( 2 Days writer/director) chose people who are so dissimilar that the story lacks credibility. Nevertheless, it is fun to watch.

The movie does not really have a main character. Instead, everyone seems equally important. It is about a boring murder, and the first character that comes to mind is the cold-blooded killer (Spader) who "masterminds" it all. Although the movie tries to disguise the plan as elaborate, it turns out to be nothing more than a life insurance scam over a cranky athlete's (Teri Hatcher) lowlife ex-husband.

Aiello is perfectly cast as Dosmo Pizzo, a dim-witted hitman starving for another chance. Aiello naively accepts a "job" that he expects to save his career, rescuing him from the boring life of working as a cook at an Italian restaurant. Instead, he's pulled into a game of double-cross when his boss tries to dispose of him after the murder. Narrowly escaping a car bomb, Aiello wanders into a rich art dealer's (Greg Cruttwell) mansion and takes the dealer and his flaky assistant (Glenne Headly) hostage. Things get even more complicated when visitors show up at the mansion, doubling the number of hostages.

In the meantime, a detective (Jeff Daniels) and his wanna-be partner (Eric Stoltz) working in the Valley Police's vice department stumble across the murder. In over their heads, the two cops put pressure on the whole situation, making a simple murder that should have worked out perfectly turn into a disaster for everyone involved.

As an action movie, 2 Days is disappointing. It works better as a comedy, though its jokes consistently fall shy of their mark. Most of the humor is slapstick, the type of sight gags that people too young to get into the movie would find hilarious. It's full of situations that should be really funny, but I have to admit that I did not laugh once during the film. You'll probably like the humor in 2 Days if you laughed during Pulp Fiction 's overdose scene. When something funny happens, you have to pause for a second and ask yourself, "Should I be laughing at this?"

The movie's funniest moments are really hidden behind the story in ironic situations that seem to have escaped the screenwriter. For instance, Stoltz plays a sheepish police officer who thinks he has what it takes to be a detective, yet he's much too timid to gather the incriminating evidence in the massage parlor scandal he is investigating.

Despite the fact that most of his ideas are borrowed from other movies, Herzfeld did manage to throw in a few unique scenes that make 2 Days worth watching. The movie's best action scene is a fight between a kung-fu-kicking Olympic skier (Hatcher) and a tough Norwegian model. The two women claw at each other with such energy that they put many of the James Bond fight scenes to shame.

Unfortunately, too much of the movie seems like it was cut-and-pasted from other popular films. Independence Day boosted classic movie scenes with special effects and unusual twists, something 2 Days in the Valley ignored when using borrowed ideas in its script. Herzfeld seems much too proud of his movie, a feeling that builds it up for disappointment when he is unable to improve on the genre.

Right now, the public seems eager to see a seedy action movie from someone other than Quentin Tarantino, but they're not likely to find what they're looking for in 2 Days in the Valley .


This item appeared in the Arts & Entertainment section of the October 18, 1996 issue.


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