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Long Quickie

One Night Stand
Have We Met?: Strangers Nastassja Kinski and Wesley Snipes become real close, real fast in 'One Night Stand,' opening Friday.

Photo by Suzanne Hanover

'One Night Stand' fails to score

By Richard von Busack

THE PHRASE "one-night stand" has a show-biz connotation that has been eroded away by the sexual revolution. It used to mean a play that opened and closed during one night at a theater. It's likely that the film One Night Stand will be true to its title's original meaning. One Night Stand was originally a Joe Eszterhas script; it was so severely rewritten by director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) that Eszterhas pulled his name off the credits. And yet the paw prints of the master are all over the film; there's even a little lap-dancing scene, a la Showgirls.

Wesley Snipes stars as Max Carlyle, a successful director of TV commercials from L.A. On a trip to New York, Carlyle has a one-night affair with a married German woman named Karen (Nastassja Kinski). The affair begins to represent Max's rebellion against his artificial business and a stifling marriage. His crisis worsens when Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.), Max's old friend (or old lover? One Night Stand fudges the point), starts succumbing to AIDS.

One Night Stand champions sexual freedom--so does a subway groper. The movie has a crass, leering quality that sets your teeth on edge. Figgis draws out the romantic sexual tensions in the material, but the plot is as rigged as the Cutty Sark. To paraphrase e.e. cummings, this movie "stinks of excuse." First, Max is stranded in New York because all of the roads to the airport are blocked. Then he saves Karen's life from a mugger. Then he can't get a hotel room. Then she pleads with him to stay over. Then it turns out that Max's wife (the cute but atrocious Ming-Wa Wen) is a demanding, materialistic bitch anyway. And then--after all of the previous reasons!--Max's dying friend urges him to live, live, live because life is so short. It's too short for this movie, anyway. Eszterhas is like a mechanic who rebuilds antique machines for squaring sex and adultery with a conservative audience. You wonder why One Night Stand didn't just have the wife entombed in a mental hospital instead--in the old days, this was the customary way of giving a fictional character license to have an extramarital affair.

Downey's wet performance as the AIDS sufferer is so ghastly he's guaranteed a nomination as best supporting actor. (Though seeing him in the early, bleary-eyed, trembling stages, you long to ask him, "Rough night at the Viper Room?") An actor is the only person in the world who thinks that the sight of a slow death is edifying. One Night Stand is a deplorable follow-up to Leaving Las Vegas. This smug, sanitized-for-your-protection entertainment is an insult to the intelligence.

One Night Stand (R; 103 min.), directed and written by Mike Figgis, photographed by Declan Quinn and starring Wesley Snipes and Nastassja Kinksi.

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From the Nov. 13-19, 1997 issue of Metro.

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