John Herzfeld deftly welds together a multitude of subplots-- a loser hitman and a cool assassin involved in an insurance scam; a washed-up director, turned suicidal, if only he had someone to care for his beloved dog; a snooty art dealer, wracked by kidney stones, cared for by his devoted assistant; a grungy deranged vice cop, now partnered with a fresh-faced rookie; and two beautiful and jealous women entangled in their deadly scheme--into a spoof of the crime thriller genre. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)
Yes. You've seen "grunge on the run" romantic comedies--Wild at Heart (1990), Natural Born Killers (1994) come to mind, and poor waitress/crazy old man romantic comedies, e.g., As Good As It Gets (1997)--well, this is a mousy secretary/aging hit man romantic comedy.
Somewhat. It's also a tongue-in-the cheek satire on all things that Hollywood thinks movie-goers crave: cute dogs, sexy women, good-hearted underdogs winning out, dumb cops, the ugly rich (Greg Cruttwell's wormy Allan Hopper fits the bill), shoot-outs, blood, dead bodies (enough to grace a Shakespearean stage) and that favorite of testosterone males everywhere: a good old-fashioned cat fight.
Charlize Theron and Teri Hatcher provide the eye appeal as they slap and toss each other around; and to be honest I have to say they are definitely worth watching. Excellent support comes from James Spader, as an amazingly clean-shaven (what does he use--Nair?) psycho-sickie with a stopwatch.
But Danny Aiello is the real star. He plays Dosmo Pizzo, the over-the-hill hit man (currently moonlighting in embarrassment at the local pizzeria). He loses his hairpiece, finds redemption, true love, thirty thousand Big Ones, and presumably lives happily ever after on the lam with his unlikely moll (Glenne Headly) in this clever plot by coincidence from director and scriptwriter John Herzfeld.
(By the way, what's with Hollywood and its perverse love affair with sympathetic hit men? A new genre? The hit man as the underclass hero? I just saw Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) which stars John Cusack as a "cute" amoral murder artist. What next? The lovable terrorist? Knowing Hollywood, I think we can count on it.)
Anyway, Spader's character is not so lovable. He kills without the slightest qualm and takes a great delight in blowing people away. Charlize is his girl friend and they have lots of you-know-what together. Teri Hatcher is an Olympic class skier with a loser boyfriend. And the Valley of course is the San Fernando Valley just north of L.A., onetime home of the Valley girls, now best known as the porn capital of America.
Jeff Daniels and Eric Stoltz play Valley cops (who are not as smart as L.A. cops--one of the jokes in the movie, ha, ha, ha). Both do a great job. Daniels is street wise and quick on the trigger and a bit of a prude while Stoltz is naive and a wanna-be homicide inspector. There are half a dozen cameos by not so well-known but talented people like veteran Austin Pendleton who does a killer sarcastic monologue on the directorial failures of suicidal Teddy Peppers (Paul Mazursky). One-time "Goodbye Girl" Marsha Mason has a modest part as a sweet and realistic nurse, and she is excellent. And there are dogs. You gotta have dogs.
However what makes this work is some clever dialogue and some satirical plot ideas, but mainly it is a tour de force of acting by a talented and highly professional cast. This is one of those movies in which every actor is a threat to steal the show at any time one way or the other. In a way it's a parade of cameos cleverly stitched together and then nicely edited.
But see this for James Spader whose skill playing nerdish weirdos is on fine display.
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