One Night At McCool's (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/04/2001

4 stars out of 5
Running time: 93 mins

Frequently amusing black comedy that plays fast and loose with film noir conventions.

Very similar in tone to 1999’s Wild Things (which also starred Matt Dillon), One Night At McCool’s is a black comedy with its tongue firmly in cheek, taking the basic ingredients for a modern film noir (a duplicitous femme fatale, weak males that think with their groins, murder, multiple flashbacks etc) and spinning them into an engaging, fast-moving comedy that is part sex-farce, part noir parody and part thriller.

The film’s cleverly-structured plot sees three men recounting their different experiences of Liv Tyler’s flame-haired femme fatale, Jewel Valentine. Dillon’s nice-but-dim bartender (Randy) relates his tale to Michael Douglas’ shady hitman (sporting a hilarious wig / quiff combo) during a game of bingo; Dillon’s reptillian lawyer cousin Carl (Paul Reiser) offloads onto his shrink (Reba McEntire); and John Goodman’s lonely cop ‘confesses’ to his priest (who is hungry for vicarious details and drinks whisky from the Holy Communion cup).

It all begins "one night at McCool’s" – the sleazy bar where Dillon works. Thinking he has rescued Jewel from an abusive pick-up, Randy takes her back to his place for a night of wild sex. Complications ensue, however, when her ‘pick-up’ / accomplice turns up the next day intending to rob Randy blind and Jewel shoots him in order to "save" Randy. From there, things swiftly degenerate into murder, theft, unorthodox methods of home improvement and, in Reiser’s case, free legal advice in return for kinky bondage sessions…

The performances are all excellent: Goodman and Dillon are reliably brilliant as always, but Reiser steals the film as the lusty, arrogant, overly-defensive lawyer (particularly in his scenes with his shrink) and Tyler is surprisingly effective as the femme fatale, proving especially game during the hilariously over-the-top ‘sexy’ car-washing scene. Douglas (who also co-produced the film) is also good, sporting deeply-unflattering wig-and-make-up but clearly enjoying himself immensely.

Director Zwart handles the pace well, and there’s a lot of comic mileage to be had from the over-lapping flashbacks, especially as it becomes clear that each of them sees Jewel very differently (e.g. Goodman insists she’s the spitting image of his saintly late wife, Reiser sees her more as a porn star etc).

There are also a number of laugh-out-loud gags ("What do you mean the dog got out? Where’s his leash?") and it all builds to a suitably farcical climax, combined with a killer punch-line that could have come straight from Monty Python. Ultimately, then, this is definitely worth seeing – a quirky, colourful black comedy with spot-on comic performances from all concerned. Recommended.

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Content updated: 22/08/2018 07:03

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