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2004 Mini Reviews

Review: The Cooler

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 of mediocrity.

Score: 4/10