2 days in the valley

San Fernando Valley has a reputation as a home for the 'wannabes' who all wind up classified as frustrated, screwed up, losers or flops by the self-appointed upper echelon situated in places like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica or Westwood and looking down upon the lifestyle of those trapped in the hot, dry, smog-filled territory. Two days there could be more than enough for anyone, especially if you consider the antics going on in this wannabe comedy written and directed by John Herzfeld. Olympic skier Becky Foxx (Teri Thatcher), has been sedated (i.e. injected with drugs) by killer Lee Woods (James Spader) after making love to her thirtysomething ex-husband Roy (Peter Hornton). Lee's the kind of guy who likes to put excitement in everyone's life and still keep things going according to schedule. Waking up the next morning to find herself in a blood drenched bed, Becky stumbles onto the road and luckily encounters two bored plain clothes cops (Jeff Daniels and Eric Stolz) and requests assistance. Incompetence does not prevent our boys out of blue from lending assistance and so they do their best. Meanwhile, killer Lee's accomplice Dosmo (Danny Aiello), a criminal desperately doing his best for a comeback, discovers that he is to be eliminated after the dark deed, but cleverly manages to escape before being blown to smithereens. He immediately proceeds to take the neighboring art dealer (Greg Cruttwell) and his secretary (Glenn Headly) hostage until he has a decent meal and can figure out his next move. Other fringe characters played by Austin Pendleton, Marsha Mason, Keith Carradine, and Louise Fletcher pop up unexpectedly for no obvious reason.

Once the audience becomes aware that the murder is a contract killing and realize which party is responsible for the arrangement, the thread of continuous action keeps moving along with some added interest. A cast to be reckoned with proves that decent dialogue and plausible plot structure can make all the difference in the world. Although there are sufficient laughs to provide an enjoyable sit, Danny Aiello is the only character whose performance truly stands out. As far as the rest goes, it's sort of like Robert Altman meets Jacques Tati with Paul Mazursky thrown into the middle.

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