"One Night at McCool's" is a black comedic spin on the classic elements of film noir, where an everyday bloke finds himself led down the path of criminal corruption by an irresistible femme fatale. However, in the case of "One Night at McCool's", there are three men who succumb to the wily charms of a devil in a red dress. Unfortunately, this first offering of Michael Douglas' ("Traffic") new production company, Furthur Films, doesn't quite work, as somewhere between its interesting concept and its slam-bang 'John Woo meets the Village People' climax, the film ends up misplacing its humor, intrigue, and suspense.
The story is told in "Rashomon"-style, with the perspective shifting between each of the three men whose lives are irrevocably changed by spending one night at McCool's, a local watering hole in St. Louis. There's the bartender Randy (Matt Dillon of "There's Something About Mary"), who is recounting his ordeal to the hitman (Douglas) he is about to hire. Then there's Randy's cousin Carl (Paul Reiser of "Mad About You" fame), a lusty lawyer who is seeking advice from a psychiatrist (country singer Reba McEntire). Finally, there's upstanding police detective Dehling (John Goodman of "Coyote Ugly"), who is looking for guidance from his priest brother (Richard Jenkins, seen recently in "Say It Isn't So").
The common thread linking them together is an avaricious young woman named Jewel (Liv Tyler of "Armageddon"), who blows into McCool's one night. Each of the men sees something different in Jewel-- for Randy, he sees a fair maiden in need of rescuing; Carl sees an outlet for his S&M urges pent-up by his staid domestic life; finally, Dehling sees Jewel as the pure and wholesome reincarnation of his late wife. Jewel, on the other hand, sees her three suitors as a pile of blank checks that will help her secure a big house of her own, filled with everything her heart desires, including an all-important DVD player. One-by-one, they all eventually become snared in her trap.
As the story unfolds, the recollections of the three men overlap, and often the same situation is told from two differing perspectives, as each narrator puts their own spin on events. In Randy's account, he may see himself as a down-to-earth and kind man, while in Dehling's account, his biased view paints Randy as a boorish buffoon. Of course, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, other than these constantly shifting perspectives, not much else of interest happens in the film. Unlike "Go", which utilized a similar story structure, the script offers very little to maintain audience interest, choosing instead to spend an inordinate amount of time ogling how each man views Jewel in their fantasies-- damsel-in-distress, whore, and angel.
Things do eventually pick up towards the end, as the three story threads and their respective narrators converge for the film's explosive finale, offering up what is probably the film's only genuine funny moment. But by that point, it's a case of too little, too late. If only the rest of the film had possessed the humor, intrigue, and energy seen in the ending, perhaps "One Night at McCool's" wouldn't have been one night too many.