British director Mike Figgis obviously has not read Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s press releases trumpeting New York City’s safer-and-saner image. In One Night Stand (New Line) — a poor Figgis approximation of a threadbare Woody Allen fantasy, minus the jokes — Wesley Snipes attempts to figure out how to play Max, a hip-to-the-groove commercial director from Los Angeles on business in NYC with far too many ascots in his suitcase. Away from his deprecatingly perky wife (Ming-Na Wen) and kids, Max meets Karen (Nastassja Kinski, biting her lip to denote spiritual depth), a creamy mystery woman, in a hotel lobby otherwise overrun with jabbering U.N. delegates. The duo shares Woody-ish high culture at a string-quartet concert and cool culture at a jazz club, only to be mugged at knifepoint (in broad night-light by a well-spoken middle-aged couple, the her of whom grabs Karen’s breast for good measure). Out of that brush with danger, the two spend a hot night together before Max returns to L.A. But neither can shake each other’s memory.
Then again — lucky for them! — they don’t have to: Max is a great friend of Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.), who is dying of AIDS in New York. And Karen — can you beat it?! — just happens to be married to Charlie’s uptight brother (Kyle MacLachlan). And so, as Charlie sweats in extremis (a truly creepy-and-not-in-a-good-way sight, given Downey’s exorbitantly publicized drug problems), their paths cross again. And sparks fly — or at least the kind of prettified sparks I have come to expect from the man who convinced Oscar voters that there are few things more romantic than the sordid self-destruction of a soulful drunk and that Las Vegas is the stomping ground of fallen angels as yummy as Elisabeth Shue.
One Night Stand was originally written by Joe Eszterhas, who took his name off the deal (the credit now goes to Figgis), possibly because even Eszterhas couldn’t stomach such clanging Manhattan chatterati pronouncements as television is ”the worst f—in’ thing that has ever happened to America.” As this inane romantic drama makes clear, there’s much worse. D+