Plot: What’s it about?
A lot can happen in a single night and as three men soon discover, the events of one night can change your life forever. In this case, the night started out as a normal night at McCool’s, the bar where Randy (Matt Dillon) works and tends to the clients. The evening take a turn when he runs into Jewel (Liv Tyler), who is trying to escape from an abusive man and as such, Randy takes her inside to relax and think about matters. But when the irate man storms into McCool’s, Jewel puts a bullet in his head and next thing you know, Randy has a new girlfriend. The two have a solid start to their relationship, but soon enough, Jewel’s desire for a certain lifestyle drives Randy into a life of crime and the like. At the same time, Jewel has worked her feminine wiles on Randy’s brother Carl (Paul Reiser), as well as the police officer assigned to the case, Detective Dehling (John Goodman). After a while, Randy gets so consumed with frustration, he seeks out a profession killer, Mr. Burmeister (Michael Douglas) and he seems to have a plan that’s foolproof…or is it?
I’d seen the trailer for this movie and it looked decent, for what seemed to be a talky, darker romantic comedy of sorts. I was unprepared for what One Night at McCool’s is however, as it is darker than expected, especially as the finale approaches. The story is complex and is unfolded in an even more complex manner, so don’t expect your normal chain of events here. I doubt anyone will be too confused though, just pay attention and you should be fine. The story and characters are hard to swallow at times, but as it fits with the tone & nature of the picture, suspension of disbelief kicks in and solves all your problems. Sometimes humorous due to silly reasons and sometimes due to excellent character work, One Night at McCool’s is very humorous, but varies in the methods used to attain the laughs. It’s fun to watch Liv Tyler strut her stuff, especially with a gifted supporting cast to back her up, including Michael Douglas in a very unusual role. This movie is off the wall and very dark at times, so it won’t be for everyone, but fans of quirky cinema should be pleased. I recommend this disc to those interested, as the movie is terrific and the disc, while not a fully loaded special edition, has a lot to offer in terms of value elements.
The driver of this film is Liv Tyler, who burns the screen with her lusty, charged lead performance, as Jewel. I knew from the trailer she has a large part, but for some reason, I assumed it would be shorter than implied. Not the case however, as Tyler’s character is the central force here and in this case, that’s very good news. Tyler looks superb here and really turns up the notches on her beauty, without seeming too skanky as a result. She has a gorgeous, but natural look and for the sake of all men, I hope she sticks with the program. I doubt her turn will win any serious awards, but I think she nails the part, which is what counts. You can also see Tyler in such films as Armageddon, Inventing the Abbotts, Plunkett & MacLeane, Dr. T & The Women, Empire Records, That Thing You Do, and Stealing Beauty. The cast also includes Matt Dillon (Wild Things, To Die For), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, The Flintstones), Paul Reiser (Bye Bye Love, Beverly Hills Cop), and Michael Douglas (Traffic, Wall Street).
Video: How does it look?
One Night at McCool’s is presented in a 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I was a little surprised to see as much grain as I did, but it never becomes an issue and as such, I won’t raise much of a stink. Aside from that, the image looks terrific and scores high, with only the grain keeping the score down. The print looks clean and shows minimal wear, which is to be expected, since this movie was released in theaters and onto DVD in the same year (2001). The colors have a bold, vibrant look, but never smear at all, while flesh tones are natural and consistent. The grain causes a little wavering in contrast in a few scenes, but on the whole, black levels are strong and never falter much in the least. Not a reference level visual presentation, but a very impressive one and in the end, I doubt anyone will complain much here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is better than expected, but still won’t replace your current demo choice. I had minimal expectations here, as this seemed to be a dialogue driven comedy and those don’t often have impressive audio range, but the mix here is quite good, more active than you might think. The amount of surround use is limited, but when it is used, it is done with skill, so the elements sound excellent. You’ll hear some subtle, atmospheric effects in the rears, as well as the musical score, which sounds good, but it is on the weird side. The dialogue remains clean and well presented also, no complaints there to mention. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A brief behind the scenes featurette starts us off and while it only runs about nine minutes, it has some good moments. A selection of deleted scenes is also found here, including an alternate ending and all of them feature optional director’s comments. In an unusual, but welcome feature, you can watch the cast in a read through on some scenes, while the finished scene plays in another window. This was very neat and I hope more discs include something like it, to be sure. You can also view a reel of Liv Tyler in various outfits, while the costume designer offers comments, very cool indeed. This disc also includes an interactive guide to the film’s locations, storyboard comparisons, two music videos (a-ha’s “Velvet” and Joan Osborne’s “Love Is Alive”), four television spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer.