Were writer Michael O’Hara’s teleplay for “One Hot Summer Night” more sophisticated, it might have proved a worthy vehicle for such stars of the past as Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and George Sanders. As it is, this thin, flatly directed telepic fumbles along, and its cast suffices.
Production starts off with Art Brooks (Barry Bostwick) shot to death by a disguised killer. Story folds back into wealthy, nasty Art’s unlikely marriage to cover-girl-pretty Erika (Kelly Brooks) without him investigating her background. Cliche trips over cliche as Erika finds out the sports tycoon’s a vicious drunk; to say the least, they haven’t much in common but his bank account.
After the beatings start, she cozies up to divorce mouthpiece Richard (Brian Wimmer, who plays it hesitant and unconvincing). Once Art’s plugged, the over-plotting starts getting in the way. Art’s spunky daughter Jenna (Corrie Clark) kicks up a stir before she inexplicably vanishes from the script; implausible Vegas killer Vincent De Ville (Tobin Bell) arrives en scene with coke and a pistol to try to sell out to the highest bidder.
Piece de least resistance is, “in a special appearance,” real-life lawyer Christopher Darden playing homicide detective Mingus amiably if unpersuasively. Presumably it’s the O.J. prosecution team member’s first offense as an actor.
Lochlyn Munro, appearing self-conscious, limns his partner Eddie. They put on a show of digging out the murderer, and Erika and Richard are put on trial for the killing. Fine actors Stephen Macht and Anne De Salvo give amusing impressions of battling courtroom attorneys. O’Hara’s labyrinthine plot aims at irony and duping the viewers, but no one will much care.
Brooks, lovely, acts nervous and uncertain; fine thesp Bostwick gives his usual convincing perf. Alannah Ong turns in a good job as the Brooks’ housekeeper Lisa. Much of the secondary casting’s acting suggests the performers are friends of friends.
O’Hara has several of the characters tell in v.o. what they claim to have seen, a reliable if familiar technique and admirably appropriate to this storyline. The editing by Thomas Fries hands the telefilm some pro support. Peter Benison’s camerawork suffices, and Michael Ritter’s production design is useful.