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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
One Night at McCool's (2001)
1 Stars

Directed by Harald Zwart
Cast: Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, Paul Reiser, John Goodman, Michael Douglas, Reba McEntire, Richard Jenkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Tim De Zarn.
2001 – 93 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence, sexuality and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 27, 2001.

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 Stan Seidel.

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.

©2001 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman