All I needed to hear was that James Spader was involved, and I was all in. And as expected, he makes his presence known from his first moments on screen. He brings a quiet reserve and intensity as the more than slightly unhinged hitman Lee. However, Spader isn’t the only familiar face involved with 2 Days in the Valley, as the film also features the likes of Terri Hatcher, Danny Aiello, Charlize Theron, Eric Stoltz, Jeff Daniels. Even Michael Jai White makes a brief cameo in the beginning as a car thief with a heart of gold. The film is marketed as a neo noir crime story depicting the butterfly effect of a single event and the mayhem that ensues as a result. In concept and partially in execution, I would categorize the story as a success. However, as I said, only partially in execution. In a sense, there are too many moving parts, and some avenues were not properly concluded to my satisfaction. The main storyline line is excellent, but the events interwoven into the events of the main story diminish the overall quality of the film.
In the main story, we are introduced to Lee, a singularly focused individual who is also quite calculating. He is a hitman who brings along a desperate mafioso, played Danny Aiello, on his latest job for reasons that are later discovered. It is clear very early on that Lee is merely tolerating Aiello’s character as a means to an end. That end is discovered to be to make him the patsy in his latest contract, the killing of a former Olympic athlete’s ex-husband. Things appeared to be going according to plan until it becomes clear that the mafioso is not as dimwitted as he appears and survives Lee’s attempts to kill him.
What follows is the unraveling of Lee’s well-thought-out plan, as events continue to transpire to disrupt his plans of getting out of dodge and beginning anew. Now given Lee’s chosen profession, it is a little difficult to root for him to win happily-ever-after. Regardless, there is no question that James Spader is the film’s biggest draw. Lee, while amoral, is the only one who seems to be remotely in control. Aiello’s character is merely reacting; hence him taking hostages and all its ensuing calamity. Hatcher’s character is clearly in over her head, as her story arc reveals her to be not as innocent as she initially appeared. Then there is the storyline following Stolz and Daniels; two cops, one a wide-eye idealist (Stolz) and other a jaded veteran (Daniels). This was a storyline that I felt really didn’t fully pan out. When they are introduced, they are having philosophical differences about a raid to shut down a newly opened Japanese massage parlor in the valley. From there they find themselves wrapped up in the conspiracy involving Hatcher’s character. Well, at least Stolz’s character does; Daniels character is essentially written off with very little explanation. Now while I found this character to be repugnant, I was not too sad to see him go. However, a better explanation was required to ensure a satisfactory conclusion for this character. As is, it feels incomplete.
Adding to that, there are one too many characters in this story. Namely, I don’t see the point of the Teddy Peppers character, i.e. the down-on-his-luck TV producer. His inclusion added no value in my opinion; there were other hostages, so that need was already satisfied, and his inclusion just pulls focus away from the other events transpiring.
In truth, there really only needed to be two storylines in my opinion: the one involving Lee’s character and Hatcher’s. With these two, you get a majority of the butterfly effect that was set off when Lee completed his contract. The events involving Aiello only have two periods that really interest me: when he is double-crossed and the inevitable conclusion that was guaranteed to follow that double-cross. Everything else was just noise.
That said, I did enjoy the film. I enjoyed watching as a well-thought-out plan began to unravel. That is where the intrigue of this movie resided. And while I was sure that Spader’s character should win, it was hard not to root for the only guy who seemed to know what he was doing.