From the first shot to the last, there’s something so decidedly retro about this true-crime yarn that it almost works as high camp. Unfortunately, it’s not quite bad enough to be good, leaving behind a schlocky tale of a philandering murderer who, with his son, exploits needy women. Full of stilted beer-ad banter and an over-the-top perf by Paul Michael Glaser, “Ladies Night” is an evening to pass on, even if admission is free.
Simply casting the former “Starsky and Hutch” star as a smooth-talking con artist and killer might possess a certain kitsch appeal if the execution weren’t so ham-fisted and obviously carried out on a shoestring budget. Nor does it help that the movie is laced with dialogue like, “So our mystery lover turns out to be Mr. Murder.”
Glaser plays Art Kirkland, who stakes out women with his son (Kett Turton), learns their weaknesses, convinces them to steal or give him money, then kills them once the operation is finished. One of these crimes garners the attention of two insurance investigators (what, no forensic accountants?), whose pursuit of the stolen loot puts them on Kirkland’s trail.
The investigators, played by Colin Ferguson and Claudette Mink, flirt with each other — poorly — as they go about uncovering clues that the police have missed. He even gets a little jealous when she describes Kirkland as attractive.
Stiffly directed and paced, the investigative work doesn’t amount to much before leading to the inevitable “Halt, or I’ll cancel your policy!” showdown, complete with an absurdly protracted chase sequence that, I’m guessing, wasn’t gleaned from the “inspired by true events” part.
USA has enjoyed a relatively strong commercial track record with true crime, even if some of its projects — notably, adaptations based on the Scott Peterson and D.C. sniper cases — have been dubious in terms of their timing. Still, those movies look like “Masterpiece Theater” next to “Ladies Night,” which, for the network that airs “Monk,” represents its own kind of defective detective story.