Starring: Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, John Goodman, Paul Reiser, Michael Douglas, Andrew Dice Clay, Reba McEntire
Director: Harald Zwart
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.
“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 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.