Get out your small chirpy dogs and minute-stopwatches, we're reviewing 2 Days in the Valley!
During their two days in the Valley, a cast of colorful characters (including hitmen, washed-up directors, detectives, Olympic skiers, and barking dogs) get into some seedy business as they all cross paths. Who will make it out of the Valley alive?
This is decidedly a 90's noir. That is, if 90's noir is a legit subgenre of noir? If not, it should be! You can definitely tell a 90's noir when you see one. It has that 90's feel. Maybe that's all movies from the 90's. Hmm. But, I got to see this on an incredible 90's DVD! Y'know, the early kind of DVDs that played straight to the feature with no advertisements! Ah, those innocent days. It was complete with terrible letter-boxing, meaning the movie was half the screen size. I'm mentioning this now because the movie was so good I forgot all about it halfway through.
It starts off rocky with an attempted rape scene. Thankfully the perp gets killed soon afterwards. I mean, it's still a sloppy start, but at least that's the only one and they guy gets his.
2 Days in the Valley is a noir ensemble film that works really well. All the characters are interesting and the interconnectedness of their stories is entertaining. It’s really interesting and funny how all these little stories intertwine, cross paths and meet up in the end. It's hard to talk about the story at all because it takes so many twists and turns – and I don't want to spoil anything. Two characters will be talking and then suddenly they'll unknowingly drive into another character's storyline! Frankly, the narrative is handled superbly.
In the first few scenes you see a black homosexual guy jacking a car, which led me to hope this would finally be a noir with some diversity. But then it immediately shifts to generic, annoying, heterosexual white people. I mean there's, what, 10 main characters? And they're all white? It's not too much to ask for a little diversity in the 90's, is it? I mean it's not like we're talking about a 40's noir. Oh well. A guy can dream. That aside, the cast is really fantastic and they all have fun with their roles. Young James Spader kills (pun intended) as a psychotic killer, Teri Hatcher plays a victim who's hiding more than she lets on, Danny Aiello does a great job of playing a loser hitman trying to get back into the game, and Jeff Daniels plays an angry racist detective. And, hey, young Charlize Theron plays a sexy femme fatale! That's cool.
I also really like how it has this theme of "losers having the most honor." There's this idea that people who are battered or broken are better off because they learn more, and even they get some every now and then. It's a nice moral for a noir movie involving sex, murder and debauchery.
It's got a very dramatic 90's soundtrack that's perfect for that 90's noir feel, and it has a moody atmosphere, like a hot day in Cali, which goes great with the seedy noir setting. It's also amazing how well the film moves between drama, suspense, and comedy. It has great balance and flow. I'm surprised how funny it is and how well it can juggle humor and drama.
And unlike a lot of noirs that have a problem sticking the ending, this one’s pretty dang satisfying, where most of the characters get to meet in one big dramatic explosion. It's a noir that actually answers most of its questions in a satisfying manner – a rare occurrence in this genre. It's all questions of who's going to backstab who, how everything’s going to turn out, how these people can escape this situation, and who's gonna get it in the end? The conclusion is very satisfying. It's really good. I want to see it all in comic form now.
There's also loads of action, dramatic tension and sex scenes: shootouts, double crosses, car explosions, assassinations – lots of good exciting stuff. And the dialogue is well-written. Maybe not as quippy as a classic Dashiell Hammett story, but still enjoyable.
So yeah, 2 Days in the Valley is a really good 90's noir. Go check it out.
THE GOOD: Great characters, great cast, great ensemble movie, great intertwining story with lots of twists and turns, lots of action and suspense, funny, good ending.
THE BAD: Attempted rape scene in the beginning, not as much diversity as I was hoping.
THE VERDICT: $$$$ It's a really good noir movie! I enjoyed it and you will, too.
MOVIES LIKE IT: L.A. Confidential, Snatch, The Limey, Bound, Kill Me Again, Gross Pointe Blank
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: The bumbling hitman Dosmo hates dogs. But guess what he finds when he stumbles into the backyard of a random house? Comedy and dramatic tension ensue.