[Movie Review] One Night At McCool's

One Night At McCool'sStarring: Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, John Goodman, Paul Reiser, Michael Douglas, Andrew Dice Clay, Reba McEntire
Director: Harald Zwart
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 2001

When you decide to go see a film with Liv Tyler that is already immortalised by a car-washing scene where she sprays herself more than the car, you probably get the perfectly logical feeling that all else will pale in comparison. Thankfully, Norwegian director Harald Zwart does not overly rely on the Liv element as he delivers a black comedy with a spirit and quality far in excess of what you might expect.

No Caption Required. Ahem.“One Night at McCools” is a black comedy charting the individual experiences of three men, who all fall in love with the same woman after meeting her at the same bar. Bartender Randy (Dillon – “There’s Something About Mary”, “Beautiful Girls”, “To Die For”) sees Jewel (Tyler – “Armageddon”, “That Thing You Do”, “Stealing Beauty”, “Silent Fall”) as the home-maker that he hasn’t had since his beloved mother died, sleazy lawyer Carl (Reiser – TVs “Mad About You”), with the straight-laced spouse, becomes besotted with the sexy temptress and Detective Dehling (Goodman – “Coyote Ugly”, “Big Lebowski”, “Fallen”) imagines her to be the re-incarnation of his deceased wife.

Each man tells his own story seperatly, lending a unique slant to each view, before the three threads all meet up for the final showdown. Carl discusses his frustrating life and longing for adventure with his therapist (country singer, Reba McIntyre), Dehling tell Father Jimmy of the guilt he feels (Richard Jenkins – “Absolute Power”, “Wolf”, “Me, Myself & Irene”) and Randy tells his story to Mr Burmeister (Douglas – “Traffic”, “Wonder Boys”, “A Perfect Murder”, “The Game”), the hitman he has hired to kill Jewel, because she threw out his snow-globes.

Zwart (known more for directing music videos and adverts) keeps things snappy and interesting, and this worthy story is never a struggle to follow. There are some nice touches, like the non-existent Noo-Yawk attitude that Dehling subconciously attributes to Randy while telling his story, and a number of other running jokes and references that always evoke a smile during the movie.

Performance wise, Goodman and Tyler never convince while Dillon is as mediocre as ever, but Reiser and McIntyre"...so John was just taking me for a walk" make an entertaining double act, Jenkins delivers some hilarious “a priest shouldn’t say that” moments and Michael Douglas steals the show as the bingo-playing hired gun.

The characters are fairly shallow and any background we do get on them is only provided to ensure we don’t take any of them particularly seriously. A number of the situations are utterly luidcrous. For example, after losing his job and his home, Randy gets tipped over the edge when he sees the aforementioned snow-globes thrown in the trash.

While rarely laugh-out-loud funny, ‘One Night at McCools’ is consistently entertaining. It’s hard to know what it is that keeps things so together – the characters are one-dimensional and the story is not edge-of the-seat-stuff. But for sheer unexpected entertainment, this ranks as one of the years best so far.

3halfstar

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[Movie Review] O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O Brother, Where Art Thou?Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, John Goodman, Tim Blake Nelson, Charles Durning, Holly Hunter
Director: Joel Coen
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 2000

Sentenced to hard labour for a daring armoured car robbery, Ulysses Everett McGill (Clooney), convinces fellow convicts Pete (Turturro) and Delmar (Nelson) to escape with him and find the loot that he hid after the robbery. Their progress to the treasure is slowed by a number of quirky characters in front of them, while behind them are a ferocious group of Mississippi lawmen whose sniffer dogs are able to follow the trail of Everett?s empty hair wax tins.

Desptie numerous setbacks, they make it to Everett?s town, and he gets a surprise when he finds that his wife (Hunter) has told his seven kids that he was killed by a train, and she is set to re-marry the next day. Everett needs to move fast to win his wife back, but can he rely on Pete and Delmar after they discover his ulterior motives for breaking out of jail?

Some people shrug their shoulders when they watch a Coens movie and wonder what all the fuss is about. But the brothers have the ability to do the little things well, and it is these little things which add up to deliver so many enjoyable filems. Take the inspired casting of Clooney. His delightfully accomplished delivery of hilarious lines (?you two are just dumber than a bag of hammers?, or when asked why he is in charge he replies ?I figured it should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought. But if that ain’t the consensus view, then hell, let’s put it to a vote?) means he is often the scene-stealer.

The simple-man acts of Turturro and Nelson might have normally been grating, but both come up trumps with quality turns. But as usual the whole cast shines. Michael Badalucco is starting to make a name for himself thanks to the Coens, and his outrageous over-stated bank robber character is memorable. Charles Durning is briliant as hateful political hopeful, Pappy O?Daniel, and it?s no surprise to see John Goodman sparkle in his brief turn as a bible salesman.

The pace is frenetic from start to finish, and any time there is a slow down to accommodate any reflective moments, it does so in the fun spirit of the movie. Sometimes you feel like you are watching a 2001 version of the Three Stooges, and that’s as high praise as I think you can get! Inventive as ever, casted perfectly, written and directed with style. The Coens really know how to entertain and get the best out of something that is wonderful anyway.

3halfstar