Black comedies with notes of antisocial behavior and absurdism had their time in the Hollywood sun in the 1990s, with Quentin Tarantino’s burgeoning career encouraging studios to invest in a different version of talkies. John Herzfeld’s 2 Days in the Valley is one of those films, and Kino Lorber Studio Classics has brought it to Blu-ray for the first time ever with a great new 1080p transfer and a nice collection of supplements for people to enjoy. This fast-talking, gun-toting drama is Recommended.
For those who have never heard of 2 Days in the Valley, you’re just like me. I somehow only remembered the iconography of Charlize Theron smoldering in key art, though the film clearly has much more to praise than just that, including James Spader at his most wiry and fun. But hey, back to the movie. In the special feature on this disc, writer/director John Herzfeld explains a situation in which he encouraged Spader to improvise during a scene, to which Spader said that the script is perfect as is. Herzfeld wrote the script in a fit of inspiration that he had, and remarked that the script barely changed from that fit of inspiration. Such as it is, the script is a cavalcade of ideas, events, and dialogue, all of which sometimes coalesce and sometimes not.
2 Days in the Valley concerns a group of people dealing with inexplicable things over the course of two days in Los Angeles. There are two hitmen, the wily Lee Woods (Spader) and mafioso Dosmo Pizzo (Danny Aiello), the Olympic athlete named Becky Foxx (Teri Hatcher) who hired the two men to kill her ex-husband, Lee’s girlfriend Helga Sveglen (Theron) and that’s just a few of the people in this twisted tale.
Many scenes throughout 2 Days in the Valley drop the audience into an unexplained situation, forcing them to pick up spare details in production design, color and movement to understand the history that got us to this point. Herzfeld is a capable director, with beautiful scope imagery of the Hollywood Hills and an attentiveness to not let his characters overtake one another, though I found much of the dialogue to be tin-eared and showy in the way we deride Tarantino rip-offs for. That isn’t to say that Herzfeld’s Altman-esque mosaic of people fucking, swearing and killing doesn’t earn its conclusion, it’s just that it doesn’t feel nearly as connected to the story as Tarantino’s work does. We’re left with some terrific performances of excitable, haphazard dialogue that don’t connect as a whole.
All that said, modest pleasures abound throughout the film, including a fight scene between Charlize Theron and Teri Hatcher that looks and feels incredibly painful, plus a scene in which Theron coos Spader into her grasp. As with many of these fast-talking 90s drama thrillers, there are plenty of offbeat moments of violence littered throughout to hit home the darker humor in the story. In particular, there’s a fun scene between Paul Mazursky and Austin Pendelton that smacks as Herzfeld grappling with his own failed Hollywood career, resulting in a very funny meta joke that works both in reality and within the film. Ah, the ways of Hollywood.
All in all, I cannot recommend 2 Days in the Valley to those looking for an overlooked gem from the 1990s, but I can recommend it to those who want a 90s work that recalls a moment in time when these amoral, often-funny dramas ran rampant in Hollywood. And, well, it has Charlize Theron in one of her earliest roles absolutely stealing the show. Not a surprise considering she’s such an acting powerhouse in today’s world.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
2 Days in the Valley shoots its way to Blu-ray with a single-disc (BD50) release that comes housed in a standard blue case. The case offers reversible artwork with the reverse side showcasing original theatrical art, plus an o-card slipcover with new art over the Blu-ray case. The Blu-ray boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio and explore bonus features.
Given that the last physical media release of 2 Days in the Valley was a DVD in 2013, this film was more than due for a fresh scan and presentation. This new MPEG-4-encoded presentation is sourced from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative and on the whole, it is a very pleasing transfer that offers enhanced clarity, black levels and contrast compared to previous releases. Film grain is light, which is not surprising given the year of production, and colors look terrific compared to the anemic transfers of yesteryear. No black crushing was found and the source looks to be in immaculate condition, with nary a mark of damage to be found throughout. Although the transfer is a bit on the darker side, I estimate that’s because of the nature of the production. This isn’t a very vibrant film, respecting the baked-in colors of its setting. There’s plenty to love about this presentation, although it’s a bit disappointing to not see the film get the 4K treatment given the quality of the new scan.
This release comes with both 5.1 and 2.0 tracks in the DTS-HD MA codec. The 5.1 track doesn’t have a ton of surround effects, though music and bass are very appreciable in this presentation, plus the dialogue and music are balanced well throughout. Effects like gunshots and punches have some added depth in the 5.1 track over the 2.0, and both tracks sound remarkably clean. No hiss or damage to note throughout.
2 Days in the Valley actually comes with a great collection of special features, including a 30-minute conversation between Herzfeld and his friend Sylvester Stallone as they recount their relationship and how it influenced the film. Stallone is such a force of nature and has a terrific memory, pulling things out of his mind that Herzfeld can barely remember, and it’s very funny to hear Stallone talk about how much he loved watching Teri Hatcher and Charlize Theron beating the shit out of each other. In addition, there’s a previously recorded Q&A from a screening in 2016 that features Herzfeld, Theron, Glenne Headly, and Catherine Hardwicke. It’s a breezy talk, but entertaining nonetheless for Theron deriding her 1996 self for being too fat, which left the audience laughing.
It’s just a normal 2 Days in the Valley, right? Nothing bad could happen, right? Think again! John Herzfeld’s 1996 drama with notes of black comedy arrives on Blu-ray for the first time ever from Kino Lorber Studio Classics and a shiny new 4K scan of the 35mm camera negative. The result is a terrific presentation aided by a great collection of supplements. This release comes Recommended!
Order your copy of 2 Days in the Valley on Blu-ray