I’m sorry, but I don’t want Wesley Snipes talking to me, which is exactly what he’s doing as Mike Figgis’ “One Night Stand” kicks into gear. There’s the actor, looking into the camera and making introductions (“Hi, I’m Max. I’m 35 … ” ) while he jay-walks around Times Square, dodging cabs and stepping ahead of pedestrians who are busy pretending they don’t see the camera crew walking backward in front of them.
It’s a bad way to start things, and “One Night Stand” - an astonishingly dopey middle-age male fantasy from the middle-age male who wrote and directed “Leaving Las Vegas” - only gets worse. This is the story of Max, a successful TV commercial director who wears an earring and a beret, and his very dear friend Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.), who is dying of AIDS.
But that’s not the real story. That’s just the excuse that gets Max to New York from his spiffy pad and perky wife in L.A., so he can talk over old times with his ailing pal and - more important - strike up a conversation with the beautiful Karen (Nastassja Kinski), whom he meets in a hotel lobby. And then, because he has spilled ink on his shirt, he gets to go up to her room (for a fresh T-shirt). Then they head out to hear the Juilliard String Quartet (they’re both practically reduced to tears by the Bach sonatas), stop at a bar, smoke a lot of cigarettes, nearly get mugged and end up in bed making long, slow, Zalman King-could-have-shot-this love until the sun comes up.
And then Max goes back to Mimi (Ming-na Wen), a frisky missus who drives a pink jeep, has an affectionate nickname for her hubby’s private parts, and makes very loud noises when she’s having sex. And Karen, who is German or Swedish or something, goes back to her husband.
Jump ahead a year, and Charlie is in a hospital dying, and Max returns for a visit, this time with Mimi, and - coincidence of coincidences! - so does Karen, who turns out to be Charlie’s sister-in-law, married to Vernon (Kyle MacLachlan). Awkward glances all over the place, and even more awkward dinner conversation as the two couples - Max and Mimi, Karen and Vernon - clamp chopsticks around raw fish in a fancy sushi spot.
Awkward dinner conversation seems to be a Figgis specialty here (he wrote the screenplay, which was originally the brainstorm of Joe Eszterhas).
A big dinner party at Max and Mimi’s comes to a screeching halt after the host (who clearly has other things on his mind) blurts, “Have you ever kissed a man?” (It’s a weirdly unresolved homophobic subtext shadowing Max: It comes up in a talk with Charlie, and when Max and Karen are accosted by two robbers, it isn’t until the male mugger tries to kiss Max that he’s prompted into action, beating the daylights out the guy and yelling “You kissed me!” in disgust.)
The problem with “One Night Stand” is that we’re meant to think Max is this deep, profound guy. He’s so deep, in fact, that when his agency has the chance to design a campaign for a pickle company, he insults the prospective clients. No deli condiments for this director, please! He’ll stick to those arty Emporio Armani spots, thank you very much.
Likewise, Karen - who says maybe 40 words in the whole movie, but is great at brushing her blond hair out of her face - is presented as sensitive and brilliant. It turns out (this is not a joke) she’s a rocket scientist. And the tragedy is that these two incredibly handsome, intelligent people are stuck with shallow, superficial spouses.
“One Night Stand,” which features lots of smoky, jazzy music composed by Figgis and lots of smoky, jazzy camera shots composed by cinematographer Declan Quinn, pursues this tragedy to its ultimate conclusion - a conclusion that involves the two couples standing on a corner in SoHo and that Figgis, one suspects, believes is thick with suspense and wit.
If this ending surprises even a single soul, however, I’d be amazed. You can see it coming all the way down Broadway, aiming right at your face.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “One Night Stand” Location: Lincoln Heights Credits: Written and directed by Mike Figgis, starring Wesley Snipes, Nastassja Kinski, Kyle MacLachlan, Ming-Na Wen, Robert Downey Jr. Running time: 1:42 Rating: R