I’m always a little leery about a movie when I hear that its director came from commercials. Many talented directors have come from advertising, don’t get me wrong. George Romero, one of my favorites, came from commercials. Ridley Scott, who had a successful year with Gladiator and Hannibal, came from the background as well. There are exceptions to the rule, but generally I find movies directed by individuals more familiar with the 30 second spot to be all style and no substance.
So when I went to see One Night at McCool’s, directed by Harold Zwart of the advertising world, I was a little skeptical. Fortunately, McCool’s finds the funny bone for far longer than the first 30 seconds.
R for language, violence, sex
One Night at McCool’s is about three men whose lives all unravel and intersect thanks to their shared fixation: a nymphomaniacal goddess named Jewel Valentine (Liv Tyler). The movie cuts between the three stories as each man tells his own account of what happened. Matt Dillon tells his to the hit man he’s hired to kill her, played by Michael Douglas; John Goodman shares his contrition with his friend, a priest; while Paul Reiser works out his obsession with his therapist (Reba McEntire).
Randy (Dillon) works in a bar, doesn’t own a car, and lives in his Mom’s old dilapidated house. He’s not exactly full of potential. After closing one night and preparing to go home, he inadvertently rescues a beautiful harlot from her cretin boyfriend. She more or less falls in his lap, and when she suggests his place, we know she spells trouble way before him.
They get back to his place and hump like bunnies before things start to make more sense. It’s all been a set up, as Jewel politely explains, and in walks her Neanderthal boyfriend Utah (Andrew Dice Clay). There to rob him, they find he’s got nothing worth taking, and so they turn their attention to the bar where he works. But when things come down, Jewel decides to switch boyfriends. So she kills Utah and asks Randy to lie to the police, saying he did it (it’s amazing what batting a few eye lashes will get you).
The detective investigating the shooting, played by Goodman, becomes convinced that Randy is abusive toward Jewel and makes it his mission to protect her. Meanwhile, Randy’s lawyer cousin Carl, (Reiser) has also become obsessed by his own fantasies of Randy’s new girlfriend. For Carl, Jewel stimulates his kinky side that hides beneath his façade of conservatism.
I want my Jewel
What makes One Night at McCool’s a little different is that each of the three men view Jewel as a different kind of stone. She’s all fantasy, so the three men literally see three different women. Detective Dehling fancies protecting her innocence. Carl imagines her fulfilling his secret desires for a dominatrix. Randy, who leads the story, sees Jewel as a threat to his very survival, persuading him into a criminal lifestyle to provide her with the things she wants (Jewel’s dream is to have her very own home).
Pulp Fiction meets The Village People
One Night at McCool’s has the mixture of humor and violence of so many Pulp Fiction facsimiles. The blend isn’t especially original, and the story that supports those opposites is also nothing terribly new. Nonetheless, One Night at McCool’s manages to be better than most replicas. It’s always a pleasure seeing Paul Reiser play a real turd. He’s very good at it. How many times has Matt Dillon played a guy who works in a bar? He’s very good at it. John Goodman does a nice job as the overly serious cop, and Liv Tyler is as good as can be, given the extremely one-dimensional part. Also, any time a movie references The Village People, as in McCool’s hilarious climax, I’m impressed.
Michael Douglas’ Further Films
My only complaint is that the movie itself feels a bit one-dimensional. There are no underlying motives, no secret agendas, and, had there been, there might have been a better movie. Not once does Jewel look privately at the camera, not once does the movie suggest she has anything more up her sleeve.
This is the first film released by Michael Douglas’ new production company, Further Films, and Douglas has a small role in the movie as the hitman hired to kill Jewel. The screenwriter, his only film to his credit, died last year so perhaps that had something to do with the script’s flaws.