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The concept is simple, but difficult. Take ten people who, for the most part, don't know each other, introduce one character whose death will bring them all together, and see where it goes.
Begin with Becky Foxx (Teri Hatcher) and Roy (Peter Horton). She's an Olympic skier who placed fourth after coming out of the starting gate and seeing husband Roy pawing a Swedish bombshell named Helga (Charlie Therzon). Add a creepy hit man (a terrific performance by James Spader) who likes to torture his victims by letting them watch the last minute of their lives tick away on the stopwatch he wears around his neck, and his first time partner, the down-on-his-luck killer named Dosmo (Danny Aiello). Couple number three is a pair including a totally vile and cretinous art dealer (Gregg Cruttwell), and the secretary he verbally abuses (Glen Headley); his nurse half-sister (Marsha Mason) and the failed TV director she has unknowingly saved from suicide. There's also a pair of vice cops tossed in, one on the rise (Eric Stoltz), one a psychologically ravaged and angry mess (Jeff Daniels).
There will be a murder, an attempted frame-up and murder, a hostage situation, an insurance scam, and one hell of a cat- fight. And a new couple will develop out of the old sets. Welcome to the world of black comedy.
By definition, a black comedy shares two elements. First, there is violence -- either lots of it, or the kind that is perverse and/or just plain out and out sloppy. The kind that, even if it isn't verbatim on screen, makes you shudder. 2 Days fills the violence quotient just fine. Second, there is the kind of comedy that is not joke-based, just unusual. There should be enough of that to offset the violence. Not here.
In 2 Days in the Valley one of the three jokes is the flopping toupee a top Dosmo's head. That's the most blatant comedy. If I gave away the more subtle joke (also by Aiello) there would be little reason left to shell out the ticket price for the flick, other than to see newbie actress Charlize Theron poured into a skin tight cat suit, when she isn't ripping lingerie off her tight bod.
If I was writing from the film student POV, I'd be raving happy by now. There is no complaint about the writing, which establishes a set of (mostly) thoroughly unlikeable characters and effectively brings them together in a logical, though forced, manner. The actors do a fine job with what they have.
But I sit with a real audience and they, as did I, didn't give a damn. The coupling that develops is logical, but the forced ending to the film is not.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for 2 Days in the Valley, he would have paid . . .
I was going to rate a dollar lower ("a buck a day") but there's enough here to kick it up to definite rental status, by my book.
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