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USA Home Video presents
One Night at McCool's (2001)

“Because of her I lost my job, I lost my house, and I’m an accessory in not only one, but two murders.”
- Randy (Matt Dillon)

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: January 18, 2002

Stars: Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, John Goodman, Paul Reiser
Other Stars: Michael Douglas, Reba McEntire, Andrew Dice Clay
Director: Harald Zwart

MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexuality, and language
Run Time: 01h:32m:31s
Release Date: October 09, 2001
UPC: 696306002826
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C B-B+A- B

DVD Review

I remembered seeing the theatrical trailers for One Night At McCool's and thinking, "Aside from Michael Douglas, that movie didn't look very funny." However, I thought it had enough potential to merit a review. Also, I noted that this was Michael Douglas' return to independent producing, going back to the roots that spawned One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Of course, I didn't expect McCool's to be anywhere near as good as that, but I figured Douglas might just pull out a small gem of a movie.

While I can't go so far as to call it a gem, I must say that One Night At McCool's is a strangely engaging film. Don't get me wrong, the film is very rarely funny, but the story is interesting enough that I wanted to keep watching anyway. The film is about a girl named Jewel (Liv Tyler), who is just about the most drop-dead gorgeous woman that Randy (Matt Dillon) has ever seen. Randy saves her from a rapist, and takes her back to his place where they have incredible sex. Afterwards, Jewel confesses that she wasn't going to be raped, and the whole thing was a setup to rob Randy. At this point, her boyfriend Utah (Andrew Dice Clay) shows up and demands that Randy take him to McCool's, the bar where Randy works, so Utah can rob the safe. Once there, Jewel shoots Utah, and convinces Randy to take the rap with the police, claiming self-defense. Enter Detective Dehling (John Goodman), who investigates the murder, but once he sees Jewel, falls immediately in love. Also, Randy's cousin Carl (Paul Reiser) sees Jewel and ends up having sadomasochistic sex with her. But Jewel is just using all three men to get what she wants, which is a nicely furnished house with a fountain and premiere home entertainment system (which, by the way, is not complete without a DVD player).

The story is structured mostly by using flashbacks. We get flashbacks from Randy as he talks to a hitman (Michael Douglas) that he's hired, Carl as he talks to a therapist (Reba McEntire), and Dehling as he talks to a priest (Richard Jenkins). Randy sees himself as a fair guy, Carl as a horny philanderer, and Dehling as an uptight cop. Carl sees himself as God's gift to women, Randy as a drunken idiot, and Dehling as an uptight cop. Dehling sees himself as a cop with a strong moral code, Carl as a strange arrogant lawyer, and Randy as an obnoxious piece of scum who shouldn't be allowed to walk the earth. These different views, compounded with the three different points of view structure, provides for some genuinely interesting scenes that convey how the way we look at the world often defines what we see. For example, there is one scene where Jewel wants a car, and Randy is telling her the dangers of driving, especially with so many drunks on the road. To cap off his argument, he explains what will happen if Jewel is hit by a drunk, and he finishes with, "You're gonna die, and you're gonna die hard!" Dehling happens to be looking into the window, and all he sees is Randy saying that line to Jewel, so he thinks Randy is being abusive. Moments like that really get me excited, because it means the writer is paying close attention to detail. Unfortunately, most of the movie doesn't live up to these moments, as the characters exaggerate so much that the three versions of the story come out looking like three different stories.

The film is also completley lacking humor. Even Michael Douglas as a bingo-playing perverted hit man with a puffed-up hairdo can't carry the whole movie, and there are only a few scenes that had me laughing at all. Perhaps part of the problem is in the directing. This is a first-time production for the Norwegian commercial/music video director Harald Zwart, and it's obvious that he hasn't abandoned the hit-em-hard/fast sell approach that is necessary to convey ideas in thirty seconds to three minutes. For example, at one point Dehling comes out of Randy's house and finds Jewel washing the car—and immediately a hip-hop song comes onto the soundtrack, and the screen is filled with jump cuts and close-ups of Jewel in various overtly sexual positions. Considering we already knew Dehling was in love with Jewel, was this really necessary? Perhaps because the script makes each character take their story to an extreme, it's hard for the director to use subtlety. Whatever the reason, I find myself wishing they had gone with the "less is more" approach. Nevertheless, I still found that One Night At McCool's did a good job of holding my interest, even if the jokes fell flat.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: I remember that there was a little furor arising over the cropping of North By Northwest so that it would fit widescreen TVs. While there isn't much of a difference between 1.77:1 and 1.85:1, who is going to advocate cutting information from their films (and on DVD, no less) when they were purposefully framed in a certain aspect ratio? Hitchcock couldn't complain because he's dead, but apparently Zwart is one of those directors allowing his films to be changed for home video release. One Night At McCool's was shown theatrically in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, yet the DVD is presented in a 1.77:1 aspect ratio. I can't understand the reasoning behind this. The demand for this type of thing must be tiny, as most people who are buying 16:9 TVs at the moment are the people who want to see films in their original aspect ratio, not the ones who want to fill up their screen with image. Now that I've said my piece, I will note that One Night At McCool's is presented in a very clean transfer, with sharp colors that don't bleed, and no compression artifacts. I would rate it higher if it were in its original aspect ratio.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The dialogue in One Night At McCool's is crisp and clear, and sound effects such as gunshots carry a lot of punch. The score uses the surrounds the most, although sometimes ambient effects work their way around the room. While not overly aggressive, the sound mix is definitely active.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:29s

Extra Extras:
  1. Where Did We Shoot That? (maps of locations)
  2. "Velvet" music video by a-ha
  3. "Love Is Alive" music video by Joan Osborne
Extras Review: While not billed as a "special," "collector's," "deluxe," or "ultimate" edition, One Night At McCool's still has some nifty extras. There's a making-of, which is just under 10 minutes. It's a hodge-podge of behind-the-scenes footage, movie clips, and interviews. While it doesn't give any insights into the filmmaking process, it's concise and is often more entertaining than the film.

There are 4 unfunny deleted scenes, plus an alternate ending (not any better or worse than the one actually used), all of which come with a director's commentary. There's a segment showing the first cast read through, placed awkwardly beside the footage used in the film. There are several of Liv Tyler's wardrobe, hair, and makeup tests that make her look even better than in the film, while the wardrobe designer gives mostly uninformative comments. There's a map of locations used, and when you click on a location, a series of stills are shown while the director give comments. There's a storyboard to film comparison for the opening and closing sequence, a theatrical trailer, 4 TV spots, and 2 forgettable music videos. Overall, the extras are entertaining but not very informative.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Perhaps One Night At McCool's would have worked better as a serious film with moments of dark comedy—considering the high percentage of jokes that just don't work. Regardless, I finished this film thinking much the same thing I thought before I had seen it: it had potential. The potential is there in the script, with the actors, and even at times with the director, but for whatever reason the film never lives up to what it could have been. Still, this is a film I would recommend seeing once, because it's entertaining enough to withstand one viewing. After that, you're on your own.


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