The Cooler

The Cooler
Released: May 20 2004
Cast: William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin Shawn Hatosy, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino, Estella Warren, Arthur J. Nascarella, Joey Fatone
Director: Wayne Kramer
Genre: Drama
Rated: MA 15+ Drug Use, Medium Level Sex Scenes, Medium Level Violence
Running Time: 94 Minutes

2004 Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actor - Alec Baldwin

When Your Life Depends On Losing
The Last Thing You Need Is Lady Luck

Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is the unluckiest guy in Vegas. From a failed marriage to an estranged son to a lost cat, everything Bernie touches turns bad. Once upon a time, Bernie was a troubled gambler with markers all over town, including a big tab at the Shangri-La casino run by his friend Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin). When Bernie couldn't pay the debts, Shelly saved Bernie's life by covering them, but then disabled Bernie by kneecapping him, causing Bernie to walk with a limp. Also, Shelly made Bernie work the floor of the Shangri-La, allowing Bernie the chance to work off his debt, day by day over the course of many years.

Bernie is just days away from paying off his debt when he meets Natalie (Maria Bello) a cocktail waitress at the Shangri-La and from there the fun begins.

My Verdict:
A cooler is a person who is employed by a casino because they have the ability to bring bad luck wherever they are. It just seems to rub off from them and to their surroundings, so casino's use them when they have players on winning streaks that are winning too much. Bernie Lootz is a cooler. He brings bad luck to anyone he goes near and is employed at the Shangri-La by Shelly Kaplow to 'chill out' some of the customers who he thinks have already won enough at his casino.

Bernie also has bad luck in his private life, enough that even his cat has run away. That is until Bernie meets Natalie at the bar of the Shangri-La. Natalie has just started working there and befriends Bernie, taking him for a drink after work. At first, Bernie is suspicious of Natalie because she is possibly half his age, blonde and gorgeous, so why would she be interested in a loser like him? But they have a lot in common, including sex, and fall for each other. And then Bernie's luck changes. All of a sudden is losing aura disappears and things appear to be looking up. Of course, Shelly doesn't like this as people are starting to win too much and Bernie's presence as a cooler as no effect. So Shelly delivers both Natalie and Bernie an ultimatum, separately without the other knowing. From there, the movie divides and there are some sub-plots that are pursued, some quite violent. This is Las Vegas old style. Shelly runs the casino according to his rules and does not take too kindly to interference.

William H. Macy is extraordinary as Bernie. He manages to maintain the depressed hangdog look and make you believe he really is a loser. You can't but help feel sorry for him and wish he could get a lucky break. Maria Bello is good as Natalie, a type of lost soul searching for that something. And Alec Baldwin is superb as Shelly, delivering a hard, cold casino boss who is very selfish and doesn't mind who he destroys as he continues along his merry way. 'The Cooler' is worth seeing for these three actors and for a glimpse of the earlier, harder Vegas.

Rating : B+

Christina Bruce