One Night At McCool's Review
In many ways One Night At McCool’s is the light, breezy sister of True Romance, both setting themselves up on the premise of a guy meeting a beautiful girl, and ending with pillow-feather snowfall in a room full of guns blazing and bloody bodies falling in slow-mo to the floor. The so-very Tarantino Romance was about love though, while Harold Zwart’s film concentrates solely on lust. Where True Romance had the rock n’ roll riff, and the Elvis Presley sub-plot, One Night At McCool’s has Village People jokes and the Y.M.C.A song. That however, is not to say the film isn’t worthy of holding its own against the Tarantino/Tony Scott vehicle, in fact much the opposite, as director Zwart and writer Stan Seidel have concocted a delightful black comedy that is deliciously funny from start to finish.
It all starts one night at McCool’s when Randy (Matt Dillon) helps Jewel (Liv Tyler) escape a mugger and ends up taking her back home. Randy can’t believe his luck until Jewel tells him it was all a set-up and that the mugging was staged in a ruse to rob Randy of all his worthy possessions. Cue the mugger showing up on Randy’s doorstep with a gun in his hand ready to take whatever he pleases. However, Jewel has a change of heart and after the threesome head to McCool’s Bar to clear out the safe, Jewel shoots the mugger and tells Randy she wants to move in with him. Enter lovelorn cop Detective Dehling (John Goodman) who is suspicious of the couple’s story behind the shooting at the bar, while secretly falling for the gorgeous Jewel. And Carl (Paul Reiser), Randy’s cousin, fed-up with his marriage and two point four kids, begins to fall under Jewel’s charm and is all too willing to move in for the kill when he sees the opportunity arise.
One Night At McCool’s oozes a stylish quirk that never leaves a single frame lifeless, director Zwart taking his cues from the Tarantino-school of film art, creating a comic book visual aesthetic with vibrant colours and creative edits. Siedel’s script has also been run through the Pulp Fiction helmer’s copy machine, with layers of black comedy and social commentary, set against three differing story strands, each unique to the main characters. Zwart’s film would be hard pushed to add to its oddball, quirky sensibility with the likes of a set of twins whose personalities are so diametrically apart, their only likeness being a vague visual resemblance and a penchant for killing people. Michael Douglas’ retro hairstyle is inspired, and seeing Paul Reiser dressed in leather bondage attire, speaking to one of his kids on the phone, musing over his daughter’s question, ‘Where’s the dog’s lead?’, and realising he’s tied it round his own neck, is priceless entertainment.
At its core, the film neatly examines lust, how three men can become so enamoured with a beautiful woman that she can play them as she wishes. Michael Douglas’ small but important role reminds of the sadistic edge of the, nothing else matters, passion for a woman. His roles in Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction, numbly displaying the dark side of the sword. In One Night At McCool’s, he plays the onlooker, lightheartedly making sexually-tinged, comic jibes as he learns the story of this beautiful redhead. Yet her place in their lives appears to be a diamond in the rough, giving Randy something to live for, providing his cousin the way out of a relationship that is clearly unhappy, and assisting Detective Dehling in coming to terms with the loss of his wife. In a way, she helps them as much as they help her. What is interesting is that for all the power she has over the men, she still needs them to survive, so even though they appear weak, they have what she wants and without them she cannot achieve her goals. This ‘Girl Power’ exterior actually just fits into 1950s gender roles, with the freedom of 60s sexual expression.
While their ‘weak knees’ welcome Jewel into their lives, Zwart uses the superficiality of the relationships between Jewel and the men to comment on their situations. Jewel’s goals are modest – the house that she so wants seems to be resembled in Randy’s home, yet the two-bedroom bungalow is dirty, rundown and pretty disgusting. She can’t understand why a top of the range ‘home entertainment center’ would be minus a DVD player and begs Randy to get one, as if there is no point in a big screen TV without the equipment to make best use of it. With Jewel, nothing is as superficial as it may appear (her obsession for consumers goods is simply a need to equip her life in pursuit of happiness), everything meaning something at least to her. This opposes Randy’s lack of achievement, his mentality that while he isn’t as happy as he’d like to be, he’ll make do with what he’s got. His cares in the world reaching no further than the table in front of him, and the flat, warm beer sitting on it. Carl is far too cunning for his own good and sees Jewel as nothing more than ‘piece of meat’, while Detective Dehling falls for Jewel because he believes she is the spitting image of his dead wife. It’s the overcoming of this superficiality, and the ‘giving’ rather than ‘taking’ not for ones own needs, that Siedel and Zwart’s story ultimately leads to. Jewel is their teacher, admittedly not by choice or even knowingly, but she’s got the answers, providing a diversion and possible escape from their individual worlds that seem to have taken a wrong turn.
Our reality in the film is based upon the three men’s recollections to their listeners – Randy speaks to Burmeister (Douglas), while Carl tells his shrink and the Detective speaks to a friend who happens to be a priest. Therefore, what we see of Jewel is anchored by each man’s feelings towards her – Carl remembers her being sex crazy, whipping him and talking dirty, while Detective Dehling, still reeling in her resemblance to his dead wife, sees her as pure, innocent and gentle. Our judgement of her is made up of what they tell us and Zwart handles this well, not allowing the film to become confusing in its logic. It’s interesting in determining how actual our reality of Jewel is, the men’s recollections clouded in lust, manifesting her in the guise of pure, innocent beauty, or a sex-hungry, S & M babe, or a well-to-do housewife. Each picture is painted with the speaker as victim, the other characters displayed as the meddlers, the ones that are in the way.
Matt Dillon hardly pushes himself here, but he’s mastered the ‘Jeez, I’m a total stupid idiot’ look, to perfection, and some of his blunt observations and dumb gazes hark back to There’s Something About Mary, making his performance perfectly worthy and at times, extremely funny. It’s a shame there isn’t enough to play with, with John Goodman’s character and he never gets close to the ‘Shut the fuck up Donny!’ hysterics of his The Big Lebowski role. The best turns come from the Douglas, Reiser and Liv Tyler. Tyler only has to look fantastic, but she gives the character enough ambiguity within each of the men’s recollections of her, to provide that little bit of mystery that never gets solved. Reiser schemes and lies, always thinking of number one, yet in his unlikable personality there’s a hint of sadness. Douglas is great in his role as hit-man, Mr Burmeister, whose wisecracks are spot-on and keep the laughs coming, while his controlled, been there, done that, attitude is fun to watch.
Certainly, Siedel’s script never leaves too much dramatic space before the next laugh. Burmeister’s seemingly repressed sexual activity, the consequence being his need to mention sex in every other sentence, never grates, whilst the character wryly plays on Douglas’ real life. Randy’s clapper which turns on his living room lamp is brilliantly introduced by the obviously chuffed man, while it hits the high comedy notes when it gets turned on and off constantly by the sounds coming from the bedroom, as Randy and Jewel have rampant sex yet again. The finale is inspired though, the masterstroke being the timing of the Village People’s Y.M.C.A song.
One Night At McCool’s is great fun – very funny throughout and has a terrific ending. Perhaps the film’s only minor flaw is Goodman’s character, which seems stale in comparison to the others, and the movie tends to drag a little with his back story, but the film has very few dull moments and with the stories interlinking and the speakers changing constantly, Zwart keeps things moving along briskly. Funny, sexy, and a dark edge, this is worthwhile entertainment.
The picture is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and anamorphic enhanced. Displaying vibrant colours, sharp and detailed, this is an excellent transfer to DVD. The rapid changes in colour tone don’t cause any problems and the DVD handles them well, while nighttime scenes look good.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track uses the speakers reasonably well but dialogue seems mainly mono based. The score fills the speakers creating an enveloping sound, and the soundtrack utilises the surround speakers creating realistic ambience. The sub-woofer is used sparingly but gets a good workout in the high-noon shootout at the end – bullets fly around the speakers brilliantly and the sub allows the low-end sounds to cry out.
Very First Cast Read-Through - This is an interesting feature that shows the cast reading through the script prior to filming. It is a little dull, but it’s a ‘behind the scenes’ piece of footage we don’t usually see.
Wardrobe, Hair and Make-Up - A very short featurette that is more interesting for the various points of view the men have of Jewel, visually. In terms of her look – Carl sees a slutty girl, while Dehling sees a pure and innocent young woman. We get to see Liv Tyler screen-testing the various ‘looks’.
Storyboards - Storyboard drawings are played alongside the corresponding scenes from the finished film.
Behind The Scenes - This straightforward ‘making-of’ has on-set footage coupled with interviews. There is some good footage to be seen here, but again it is rather dull.
Deleted Scenes - 5 deleted scenes are present on the disc with optional director commentary. The deleted scenes included an alternate ending, and a separate gag reel.
Where Did We Shoot That? - Photo’s of the films various locations are anchored by director commentary.
How Did We Kill Paul Reiser? - Behind the scenes footage of how one of the film’s special-effects works, with director commentary.
Music Videos and Trailer - Two versions of A-Ha’s ‘Velvet’ video, and Joan Osborne’s ‘Love Is Alive’ video are present on the DVD, along with a theatrical trailer.
An excellent film gets decent treatment from EIV, but the extra features could have been a lot better and unfortunately there is no commentary. Nevertheless, the DVD is solid in both audio and video departments, and the film is great entertainment.