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One Night At McCool's

Michael Douglas has been taking some interesting chances with his career. Already loaded and a Hollywood legend in his own right, Douglas has branched out to play a burned out professor in The Wonder Boys, the drug czar with an addicted daughter in Traffic, and, now, a sleazy bingo player with a bad pompadour wig in the very funny One Night at McCool's (a movie he produced).

Liv Tyler stars as Jewel Valentine - a pouty, vulnerable, manipulative Marilyn Monroe-like sexpot in trouble. One night, after locking up McCool's Bar, Randy (Matt Dillon) stumbles across Jewel and her abusive boyfriend having a fight. Randy saves the day, takes her home and finds out this is all a scam when Jewel's boyfriend returns to rob him. However, Jewel shoots the boyfriend and convinces Randy to plead self-defense. With her boyfriend dead, Jewel latches onto Randy and starts him down the road to a life of crime that only benefits her.

Will Randy be convicted of murder? Who will end up with Jewel?

Writer Stan Seidel and Director Harald Zwart team up to create a funny, hip dark comedy that entertains on many levels. First, it is a well-made and constructed film. Zwart moves the plot along by following three men; Randy - the working class lug, Carl (Paul Reiser) - his sex crazed lawyer cousin, who starts to put the moves on Jewel, and Detective Dehling (John Goodman) - a love struck knight-in-shining-armor cop, who falls deeply in love with Jewel, as each one professes his love for Jewel to a confidante. This allows Zwart and Seidel to give the audience a look into the minds of these three nitwits and how they view the actions that have brought them to the brink of insanity. Which one is telling the truth? Who is skewing the story to make themselves look good? Also, Zwart uses some very cool stop motion, slow motion and transitions to spice up the look of the film without distracting the audience from the plot or the characters. The final act screams along at breakneck pace and best exemplifies Zwart's background as the director of television commercials.

All five members of the ensemble bring their characters to life with crazy quirkiness. Tyler channels Marilyn Monroe, with a touch of the bad girl streak in her. It's the first time in a while that Tyler has tried her hand at comedy, and she does well. While she has some trouble showing the evil side of her character, she has the dumbness down pat, and every man in the movie and the audience is taken in by her steamy sexuality.

Dillon is pretty good as the dumb lug that is being played for a fool. In some ways, he is the male version of Jewel without the evil streak. Reiser goes over the top as the lawyer with weird sexual desires and makes the most of his outrageous costuming. Goodman puts in a great performance as the lonely cop who thinks Jewel is the replacement he has always sought for his deceased wife. He smartly exploits the character for comedic effect instead of clouding up the performance by tugging on our heartstrings. However, it is Michael Douglas as the dirty, sleazy, old man who listens to Randy's plight who steals the show.

The film is a dark comedy with some violent and sexually suggestive scenes (not the same scenes), so be wary if that is not the kind of stuff you can handle. After a slow start, One Night At McCool's picks up steam in the second and third acts, which makes it well worth your time this weekend. Grade: B+

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