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The Cooler

Starring William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin and Maria Bello
Screenplay by Wayne Kramer and Frank Hannah
Directed by Wayne Kramer

IN SHORT: A film that would have lived its life in the arthouse is redeemed by the presence of a star. [Rated R for strong sexuality, violence, language and some drug use. 103 minutes]

That star is William H. Macy, one of the few "names" whose name is enough to get us to want to see a film.

Any person that has made a trip to a casino, heck, anyone who has spent a night playing cards with friends, is more than familiar with the terms hot streak and hot table and bad luck and sucker. As we will learn, in the Vegas casinos that form the universe for The Cooler, no one leaves with a profit -- but you find out the why and wherefore of that statement until you get near the end of the film. Most of your time will be spent getting to know Bernie Lootz (Macy), a professional gambler whose profession, as an employee of a casino, is "loser."

Not only has Bernie owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the casino run by Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin), he also has the unique ability to kill the hot streaks run by any gambler in the joint simply by joining the game. Thus, his nickname. So it is that Bernie has spent the last six years in Shelly's employ, working off his debt and killing the luck of hundreds if not thousands of gamblers. With his hang-dog look, Macy is perfectly cast as the loser. ernie's "luck," such as it is, also extends to the bedroom of his one room dwelling at an off the Strip motel. That means the only moans and groans he ever hears come through the far too thin walls of the room next door. Bernie's also got one drinking buddy left, a lounge singer named Buddy (Paul Sorvino) who's found after show relief at the point of a needle. Buddy's junkie spiral downwards forms one of the minor subplots in The Cooler.

With a week left to go on his commitment Bernie meets a waitress, Natalie Belisario (Maria Bello), and wonders if a) his luck at love has finally changed or b) if she's been supplied by Shelly as a gift. This is Vegas, after all. "Professional women" come in all flavors, dontcha know...? Either way it goes, the relationship flowers far too quickly -- Bernie lets Natalie know right up front that in a couple of days he's turning his back on Vegas and leaving town -- and, for the first time in his life, Lootz knows Love.

Now, that's really bad luck because, dontcha also know that, with good luck comes ... good luck. Bernie starts to win, just about the time his estranged son Mikey (Shawn Hatosy) and his pregnant girlfriend Charlene (Estella Warren) pop back into his life. Coincidence and necessity being what it is, Bernie will give Mikey three grand, "for the baby." Mikey will head for the casino, which sets up events of the Third Act which we leave to you.

The Cooler is a movie perfectly written for the look of William H. Macy. In truth, we can't think of another actor that could play it better. The running substories are not enough to build the film into anything more than a good sit for the local art house.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Cooler, he would have paid . . .


Fans of Mr. Macy (as we are) should plant, as should art house patrons. Everyone else should wait and rent

amazon com link Click to buy films by Wayne Kramer
Click to buy films starring William H. Macy
Click to buy films starring Maria Bello

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.