Arriving not so very long after Wild Things and Dead Man's Curve, One Night At McCool's is the latest addition to a burgeoning sub-genre: the teen noir. Of course, none of the characters are teenagers, but it's clear that Harald Zwart's jaunty debut is aimed squarely at a high school - - or, at least, just-out-of-high-school - - audience. It has sex (Liv Tyler in rubber), a boisterous soundtrack, sex (Liv Tyler panting for a hot dog), designer violence and sex (Liv Tyler soaping down a car) - - everything your average hairy-palmed, Discman-wearing, Taranteeny movie-nerd could ask for.
The noir elements, meanwhile, come courtesy of steamy femme fatale Jewel (that would be Liv Tyler, then), hapless mark Randy (Matt Dillon) and the shadowy shadings of each and every character. Then there's Michael Douglas, who also produced the movie, peering out from under a great teddy-boy barnet to play a hired assassin, stock figure of such movies as Blood Simple, Red Rock West and U-Turn.
Told from three viewpoints - Randy's, his sleazy cousin Carl's (Paul Reiser) and investigating cop Dehling's (John Goodman) - an essentially humdrum tale of male stupidity turns into a diverting jigsaw. Film noir has always milked plot twists, flashbacks and unreliable viewpoints to muddy the narrative waters, but Stan Seidel's script is more of a perversely comic take on truth and memory than anything else. As each principal recalls the details with a different emphasis here and a varying interpretation there, their accounts both cloud the bigger picture and throw light on themselves.
Not that anyone's pretending this is the new Usual Suspects. The multiple-angle shenanigans are more an excuse to have a little fun than an attempt to impart some great wisdom on the mechanics of human nature. But then is that really so bad?
McCool's isn't going to change your life - - or even sit in your memory banks for more than a day or two - - but it will keep you entertained for 90-odd minutes. It has a good cast, clever structure and ends on a cracking gag. Brainless entertainment, then, for those who like their comedy dark.