The Cooler (2003)
Directed by Wayne Kramer
Starring William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello
Running time: 101 minutes
The theme song to The Cooler says more than any
review could -- Luck be a Lady Tonight. What is luck?
Is it an imaginary force that determines whether someone
deserves good fortune, or not? Is it just a random series
of coincidental events that people interpret into a pattern.
Maybe it's a little of both. Who can say, really? There
is no denying, however, that luck is the force that drives
people in Vegas, and their belief in that concept, will
come into play at the poker table, the roulette wheel, or
the nickel slot machine. The Cooler takes the concept of
luck a little further, may too far, and transforms it almost
into a character in itself.
Bernie Lootz's (William H. Macy) entire profession is based
on luck. Due to tragic events in his life, he is doomed
with horrendous luck, which not only applies to himself,
but also to those he encounters. He is the epitome of a
loser, and in The Cooler, his illness is viral. He makes
his living by "cooling" down lucky gamblers in
a Vegas casino, and he does it merely by being himself.
As Bernie approaches the end of a long contract, his fortunes
seem to turn around as he meets someone who could very well
be the woman of his dreams. Natalie Belisario (Maria Bello)
is a struggling cocktail waitress at the same casino just
trying to get by and make a buck. Bernie takes it upon himself
to pull some strings and get her a promotion. She, in turn,
notices him, and we have ourself a movie.
Alec Baldwin plays the heartless casino owner who chooses
to stick with the traditional casino management style --
the baseball bat. He has a vested interest in Bernie's misfortune,
so does whatever he can to keep his Cooler in the dumps.
The Cooler has some things going for it, including some
intriguing opening camera work that really puts the viewer
in a Vegas frame of mind. The film is shot and lit very
well, and the sets do capture the inner workings of a seedy
Vegas casino. The acting is superb at times, with Baldwin
and Bello both giving strong performances, but Macy, unlike
his usual work, falls flat.
The worst problem is the script. Not only does the plot
revolve around something intangible (luck) as a plot device,
but it does become ridiculously predictable and even a bit
schmaltzy towards the end. After an hour, already knowing
how everything will turn out, there doesn't seem to be much
of a reason to keep watching. The movie loses all of the
momentum it began with and slowly sinks into a whirlpool