Combustible Celluloid
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With: Wesley Snipes, Nastassja Kinski, Kyle MacLachlan, Ming-Na, Robert Downey Jr., Marcus T. Paulk, Natalie Trott, John Calley, Glenn Plummer, Amanda Donohoe, Zoe Nathenson, Thomas Haden Church, VIncent Ward, John Ratzenberger, Thomas Kopache
Written by: Mike Figgis
Directed by: Mike Figgis
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality and language, and for drug content
Running Time: 102
Date: 08/31/1997

One Night Stand (1997)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Dying for It

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I was alone... utterly alone in my appraisal of Mike Figgis' 1995 Leaving Las Vegas. While I admired the low-budget quality of the film, I didn't think it was all that gritty. I expected a movie like that to really plumb the depths of hell. A guy goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. What a great premise! But our guy is a passionate, full of life guy, who seems to enjoy every moment to the fullest. Figgis had disguised a shallow film, frightened of itself, as a "gritty" film, punched in by its minuscule budget, and everyone bought it.

In his new film, One Night Stand, he tries to do the same thing: disguise a feeble and contrived story with slick/gritty filmmaking, only this time the story is so obvious that Leaving Las Vegas's many supporters will surely catch on to it. Wesley Snipes is Max Carlyle, a married Los Angeles commercial director who goes to New York to visit a friend diagnosed with AIDS, Charlie (Robert Downey Jr., typically awesome). While there, he meets a beautiful woman, Karen (Nastassja Kinski), misses his flight and goes to the symphony with her. They get mugged, and pass a troubled, erotic night together. A year later, Max finds out that Karen is married to Charlie's brother Vernon, played by Kyle Maclachlan. Everyone is really jittery while Charlie slowly dies and Max and Karen try not to look at each other. Finally, at the funeral reception, Max and Karen sleep together and catch Vernon and Max's wife sleeping together as well.

All this is coincidental, unbelievable, unrelated stuff that is all crammed and slammed together like a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't work. The first half hour is well done, as we follow the illicit lovers as fate brings them closer and closer together. It's a situation that maybe could have been avoided, but it wasn't. After that, we're asked to believe a lot of very convenient stuff to tie it all together. Sorry.

Figgis directed the film and wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Joe Eszterhas (who is uncredited). Maybe that's the problem, thinking a good movie can be made from a story by Eszterhas.

Figgis also composed the film's jazz music. Clearly that is his love and his strength. Maybe he should leave filmmaking for music, full time. There's a tip, to him, from me.

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