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Review by Dustin Putman
1½ stars out of 4
Harald Zwart's "One Night at McCool's" attracted an impressive roster of
talent, particularly considering how one-note and needlessly nihilistic it
is. Acquiring the storytelling method of Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon," in
which one story is told by three separate people, based on each of their
individual point-of-views, the movie is all technique and zero substance.
Meandering from one scene to the next without any clear-cut destination, the
entire affair feels simply tired, and far too violent and mean. Did I mention
it wants to be a comedy?
In one night, three lonely men's lives are changed by the appearance of one
sultry, dangerously beautiful woman named Jewel Valentine (Liv Tyler). Told
mostly in flashbacks by the three whipped guys--dense bartender Randy (Matt
Dillon), married lawyer Carl (Paul Reiser), and widowed Detective Dehling
(John Goodman)--the film makes great pains in showing how each of them were
instantly smitten with Jewel, a possible femme fatale with ulterior motives
hiding just underneath her various laced bras and low-cut dresses.
Closing up the bar for the night, Randy spots an argument in the parking lot
and saves Jewel from the clutches of her abusive boyfriend Utah (Andrew
Silverstein, formerly Andrew Dice Clay). After going home with Randy and
having wild sex, the guilt-ridden Jewel admits that she actually has feelings
for him, but that the whole thing was a set-up in order for she and Utah to
rob him. It's not long before Jewel murders Utah and quickly moves in with
Randy, dead-set on designing the dream home she has always longed for,
complete with window treatments and an entertainment center. On the case of
Utah's suspicious demise, Detective Dehling takes one look at Jewel and falls
head over heels for her himself, convinced that Randy is a "beater" and Jewel
an innocent housewife. And Randy's cousin, Carl, who believes he is God's
gift to all women, also sets out to start an S&M-littered affair with Jewel.
All she seems to really want, though, is a DVD player to go along with her
big-screen television set.
"One Night at McCool's" is offbeat, to be sure, but not much else. Flimsily
plotted and with paper-thin characters who have no real cares or interests
outside of Jewel, this film noir black-comedy goes nowhere, and stays there
for its 93-minute running time that feels more akin to a lifetime. Nowhere in
this movie can there be found a likable or identifiable person, or a
situation that even bears a slight resemblance to real life.
In a role that is mostly notable for ogling her breasts at the camera, Liv
Tyler (2000's "Dr. T and the Women") manages to survive mostly unscathed.
Jewel may be just as one-dimensional as everyone else, but Tyler does what
she can, giving her several different character shades that makes you
question at all times just who this person is. The fine actress doesn't take
herself too seriously here, and she is the sole reason why one particular
moment works perfectly, with Jewel trashily washing a very dirty car and
getting all soaped-up and bothered. If my memory serves me correctly, Tyler
garners the only intermittent laughs that come from the shallow screenplay by
Playing second fiddle to Tyler, Matt Dillon (1998's "Wild Things"), Paul
Reiser (1995's "Bye Bye, Love"), and John Goodman (2000's "What Planet Are
You From?") are giant bores with characters who are uninteresting, at best.
This is especially surprising subpar work for the usually very good Goodman.
In what may be the most strangest big-star pop-up of the year, Michael
Douglas (so brilliant in 2000's "Traffic" and "Wonder Boys") plays a cheesy
hit man with a mullet hairdo and not many other distinguishing factors.
Douglas produced this misfire, though, so at least there is some evidence of
why he chose to appear.
The climactic shoot-em'-up, scored to The Village People's "YMCA," puts the
final nail in "One Night at McCool's" coffin. By the time the end credits
roll, only two of the main characters are left standing, and neither one has
evoked an ounce of our sympathy. It does, however, leave a terribly sour
taste in your mouth--a cardinal sin when you're dealing with what is supposed
to be a funny, comedic romp.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman