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The Cooler More at IMDbPro »

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84 out of 102 people found the following review useful:

ALEC BALDWIN

Author: jedobi
20 June 2004

The Cooler is worth seeing just for Alec Baldwin's performance alone. An old style casino boss, his inability and unwillingness to accept the new Vegas sends his volatile nature over the edge. Baldwin has always been an underrated actor- at the start of his career, the big studios made the mistake of trying to market him as a star, rather than as the quality actor that he is. He is also helped by working alongside another great actor, William H Macy, who can do more with a look than most can do with 6 OR 7 pages of dialogue ( See the scene when he realizes Maria Bello is still in his flat ). See this film for the acting. It's good to see that films like The Cooler and 21 Grams are doing well and being recognised - it is a triumph for acting and strong scripts as opposed to continual FX and CGI in modern cinema.

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75 out of 89 people found the following review useful:

Performances are rich

Author: Qcoatl
19 January 2004

The Cooler is an odd but ultimately satisfying mixture of real feelings, unexpected violence and improbable situations set against of the backdrop of a Las Vegas nearly gone from this world.

William H. Macy plays Bernie, the Cooler of the title. He is a man whose luck is so bad that it not only infects his own life, but can be rubbed off on unsuspecting gamblers at the Golden Shangri-La casino where he works. By merely touching the table where a winner is betting he can change their luck to bad, thereby cooling off their winning streak. It is in this capacity that he meets a cocktail waitress named Natalie (Maria Bello) who begins a relationship with him after he cools the luck of a customer who gets fresh with her. As the unlikely couple begin to form a strong bond, Bernie's luck begins to change. It is when Shelly (Alec Baldwin), the casino manager and boss to both Bernie and Natalie imposes his will on the situation that Bernie's newfound luck and love are tested.

Macy has spent his career playing hapless losers and hard luck characters. In Bernie, he hits the jackpot, delivering a well modulated, brave performance. Brave because he allows Bernie to be shown for what he really is, a not overly attractive, middle aged loser in both body and spirit. Macy shows us a lot of himself both literally and figuratively and it is that which brings a sense of truth to the performance.

Baldwin, who is being billed as a mere co-star is actually a major player in the story. Shelly is a character who utilizes more brute force than the usual steely-eyed verbal barrages that Baldwin excels at. But Shelly is a great character for Baldwin, a man so sure of his place in life and even in Vegas history that he will not bend under any amount of pressure. The Golden Shangri-La is, according to Shelly, the last of the old-style Vegas casinos. The proposed remodel of the casino threatens Shelly at a deep level, making him all the more inflexible. This is definitely bad news for anyone Shelly comes into contact with who would try to thwart his will in any way, including Bernie and Natalie. It is a tribute to Baldwin that the Shelly is someone the audience can never find it in their hearts to dislike completely, despite his intolerable actions.

If in the end, the improbabilities of the story overshadow the ending, it is a fairly minor consideration. This is a movie of performances more than storytelling. Macy's performance is so fine and delicate that one is hard pressed to see how difficult it must have been to do. Bello, as Natalie, shows an underlying fragility that draws the viewer to her and shows us why Bernie would love her. And Baldwin is the hurricane force wind that rages and storms through the proceedings. And it is the audience who is lucky enough to see it all.

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72 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

outstanding performances in a flawed but good film

Author: Roland E. Zwick (magneteach@aol.com) from United States
21 August 2004

William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin and Maria Bello give unforgettable performances in 'The Cooler,' a moody tale of high stakes gambling on the Vegas Strip. Baldwin plays Shelley Kaplow, a casino operator steeped in nostalgia who hates what has become of his beloved city and prefers to do business the old-fashioned way (i.e. breaking a leg or two or even rubbing a person out if the situation calls for it). Shelley is also so intensely superstitious that he's hired a 'cooler' to rein in any gambler who starts winning a bit too much against the house. Macy is the 'cooler,' a man named Bernie who's been a loser all his life. It is Shelley's contention that all Bernie has to do is stand next to a gambler on a hot streak and that player's luck will immediately turn cold. And it works. Bernie is like a dark cloud roaming the floor of the casino, bringing despair and depression wherever he goes. The problem for Bernie is that, although he makes a living doing this, he has virtually no self-esteem left. He truly believes that he is a bad luck charm, an impression he carries over into his personal life as well. Enter Natalie Belisario, a sweet, beautiful cocktail waitress at the casino, who is assigned by Shelley to accompany Bernie on his treks around the room. What none of them expect – least of all Bernie and Natalie - is that the two of them will wind up falling in love with each other and that this happy turnabout in Bernie's personal life will extend to the professional arena as well. Bernie's new role at work as a wandering leprechaun, dispensing good luck and fortune in his wake, is not, of course, a positive thing for business. Thus, Shelley feels compelled to step in and wrest control of the situation, any way he can.

The screenplay uses the gambling scene in Vegas as a metaphor for life. The film, written by Frank Hannah and Wayne Kramer and directed by Kramer, shows that achieving happiness is really all about taking chances, laying down our bets and going for the big score even when all the odds are against us. And nothing in the film underscores that theme more than the relationship between Bernie and Natalie. In fact, Bernie's final act is really one giant spin of the wheel that manages to pay off. After he's taken his chance and beaten the house (and not just at the craps table), he is Bad Luck incarnate no more. Yet, in many ways, the script is so heavily symbolic - so rife with contrived allegory and neatly lined-up parallelism – that it almost ends up derailing the film in the second half. On the positive side, Bernie and Natalie make a compelling romantic couple, as she attempts to build up his confidence and make him see his own self-worth. Macy and Bello do a beautiful job capturing the essence of these two lost souls who find strength in each other's weaknesses. In addition, Baldwin paints a chilling portrait of a man who is smooth and suave on the surface, yet so ruthless underneath that he will literally stop at nothing to get what he wants. The dialogue is sharp, abrasive and insightful and the insider view of casino operations is, as always, fascinating to watch. The film also captures the evolutionary struggle Vegas itself has been undergoing over the years. Shelley is like an animal facing imminent extinction, as the Vegas he yearns for – the one run by syndicate money for hardcore gamblers, truly the last outpost in a fading frontier where a fistfight or a gun battle could settle any argument – makes way for the new Vegas of glitzy mega-casinos and family-oriented Disney-esque attractions.

What undercuts the film in the second half is its falling for its own fantastical premise. The idea that one person can spread good or bad luck depending on his mood is fine for a ruse, but when the screenplay itself begins to endorse that view, the film loses both grit and credibility. The final sequences, in particular, have a feeling of desperation to them, as if the filmmakers couldn't come up with a viable ending, so they turned, quite literally, to Lady Luck to get them out of their predicament. The problem, essentially, is that 'The Cooler' starts off as a realistic drama, then wanders off into rueful fantasy. It makes the film more 'clever' in the long run, I suppose - though I, for one, would have preferred a more consistently life-like approach and a more believable resolution.

This is not to in any way denigrate the brilliant performances of the three leads or to minimize the many elements of quality that make up the film. Despite its flaws, 'The Cooler' is a compelling human drama that, if nothing else, will make you think twice before you grab all those winnings off the crap table.

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46 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

A good little low-key film whose weaknesses in the writing are covered up by great delivery from all involved

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
19 July 2004

Bernie Lootz is a 'cooler' – a man whose very presence on a casino floor turns peoples' luck to cr*p and stops any winning streak dead in its tracks.

As such he is a very valuable asset to casino boss Shelly Kaplow, himself having enough problems of his own trying to stop his old school casino being revamped to the point of losing it's sense of class. However, with Bernie looking to leave, Shelly is eager to make him stay – not helped by waitress Natalie falling in love with Bernie and turning his jinx into universal good fortune. With the casino dropping a million plus in one day, Shelly takes action to protect what is his.

As with many viewers I suspect, I was attracted to this film by the cast and the fact that it received a few nods from the Oscars (despite being showy enough to win). The plot is based on the old casino idea of coolers being those who bring bad luck to the tables but it very much needs you to buy into the idea of luck to really enjoy this fable of lady luck – unless you get into it, it'll feel rather forced and silly at times. However the film helped me to overcome this by being very lowkey and downbeat – very much like Bernie himself the film is dog eared and lovable, not a great thing but one that is easy to get into. The film uses Las Vegas really well and it is the Las Vegas I believe in – downbeat, cruel and plastic, it is much better than the fun, breezy and slick Vegas that we are sold in CSI or in Oceans 11. The mix of romance, comedy and violence works very well – at points it was very touching, at others quite funny and then others unrelentingly brutal and downbeat. It isn't perfect of course and the writing is where the problems lie; the story did rely on the audience buying into it and at times the dialogue comes very close to corn (but just misses). The only time I felt really let down by it was the ending, which, although fitting with the spirit of the film, missed a great chance to be dark, depressing and beautiful all at the same time.

Despite the odd weakness in the material, these are almost totally covered by a superb collection of performances. Macy may be aware of typecasting but so what if he keeps getting roles like this, probably one of his best performances since Fargo. He is typically the little man who we cannot help but root for and Macy does well never to let Bernie become pathetic to the point that he loses the audience. Bello also does pretty well and even convincingly falls for Bernie even though the film offers her very little opportunity to show a real development of love there. She is pretty but not to the point where she is an unconvincing waitress and her dashed hopes are well worn by her. However the one performance that dominated the film was Baldwin who does very well in delivering a role that could easily have become caricature. At turns he is amusing, brutal, friendly and tragic and Baldwin does almost all of these with minor touches – at one point I was impressed by how well he controlled his face (eyes in particular) to convince me that here was a man who was totally lost. A great performance and one that definitely deserved his Oscar nod. Support is just as good from several well known faces; Sorvino is given little more than a cameo but the one scene he shares with Baldwin is fantastic and, unlike some of his other roles, I never saw Paulie once – his Buddy was too tragic for that ghost to linger here. Hatosy is OK even if his part of the story is not as good as the others and Nascarella will be a well known face to many due to many roles in films for Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and a few other big films.

Overall this is not a perfect film and it needs you to really buy into its fantasy world to really enjoy it but it works well and turned out to be an enjoyable, low key and atmospheric little love story that was never brilliant at any one thing but managed to be touching, brutal, funny and, ultimately, quite satisfying even if my darker side wanted an ending with more punch.

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39 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant Fable

10/10
Author: Maxsa from Poconos, PA
29 October 2004

Wonderfully acted modern day fable of love luck ego venality and redemption. Baldwin and Macy are their brilliant opaque selves. The sex scenes are realistic. The director never gets in the way of the linear narrative and the A, B and C stories intertwine like rope. The camera loves Macy as it has in every single frame he's ever filled. Baldwin slips into his character like legs into stockings, Maria Bello proves beyond her role in PAYBACK that she can play in the Bigs and all the secondary character acting is seamless. A film more than a movie. A sleeper hit to me. You'll love it or hate it.

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29 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Terrific performances

8/10
Author: rbverhoef (rbverhoef@hotmail.com) from The Hague, Netherlands
11 February 2005

A "cooler" is a guy who stands next to you in a casino when you are having a winning streak that is suddenly interrupted. It is someone who has such a bad luck that people around him are influenced; he could be pretty important for casino bosses. The cooler here is Bernie and the face of William H. Macy is perfect for him. The casino boss is Shelly in a wonderful performance from Alec Baldwin. Soon Bernie will leave, but not before he has met and fallen in love with Natalie, played by Maria Bello (for me only known from 'Payback' and 'Coyote Ugly'), a third terrific performance. She seems to like him also and suddenly that means Bernie is lucky. This will give, unfortunately for Shelly and therefore himself as well, results on the casino floor. Things are getting complicated.

The story is pretty original and entertaining on itself. A sub-plot that deals with the idea of remodeling the casino into a more modern one, not if it is up to Shelly, gives him a reason to be annoyed and show his more cruel side. Baldwin is at best in these scenes. The performances take the film to the next level. Baldwin won an Oscar nomination and it is pretty clear why. You believe him the entire time, no matter what he does. From Macy we expect a good performance, he is one of the best character-actors out there. I was also pleasantly surprised with Bello, an Oscar nomination would not have been strange here; she is very good, even great in the scenes with Macy. In the end 'The Cooler' is a good film, becoming better through performances, entertaining all the way through.

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23 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Oddly compelling story of luck and love

6/10
Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
13 March 2006

William Macy's Bernie Loots is a full-time loser. His luck is so bad that it rubs off on anybody around him. Lootz is a cooler - a guy who circulates around in a casino run by Alec Baldwin, cooling off winning streaks. If this sounds improbable, you've rented the wrong DVD, because it only gets moreso. This film is a somewhat unique Vegas fantasy film where luck and love play the starring roles. It's a Las Vegas love story, but unlike the disturbing Leaving Las Vegas, it's not a story of hopelessness and redemption, but rather, an adult fairy tale.

Maria Bello turns in an excellent performance as Lootz' romantic interest - the woman who changes everything for him, turning his luck around and, therefore, threatening his livelihood. Alec Baldwin, an obsessed and beleaguered casino manager, will stop at nothing to keep Lootz around.

I'm not a big fan of Vegas, or Vegas-oriented films, but the cast and the unusual themes of The Cooler made it a must see for me. The script was good, and the cinematography was good, but nothing special. Baldwin is terrific and so is Maria Bello. Macy's performance was not quite up to his usual par, and the direction occasionally seemed a little directionless, but all in all, this is an interesting film and well worth seeing.

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17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Las Vegas-Or the City in a Parallel Universe

7/10
Author: Ralph Michael Stein (riglltesobxs@mailinator.com) from New York, N.Y.
16 May 2004

"The Cooler" has really divided viewers. Some, definitely not all, are taken with William H. Macy's first-ever sexy role where he shows his buns (and a bit more) as Bernie the Cooler, a key employee at the Shangri-la, a Las Vegas casino a bit shopworn and out of touch with the latest and hottest on the Strip. A cooler is a guy who shows up by the side of a punter on a long winning streak and, somehow, extinguishes his luck merely by hanging around the table and acting like a klutz.

Maria Bello is a cocktail waitress, Natalie, relegated to the low end of the casino where elderly day trippers bet small amounts. Feeling sorry for her, and perhaps a bit attracted, Bernie gets her transferred to the big spender zone where, presumably, tips are better. One thing leads to another and - wow - Macy is, according to a few of my female friends, a heck of a lot sexier than, say, a wannabe babe magnet like Brad Pitt.

Running the casino is Shelley, Alec Baldwin. Shelley has a problem: the casino's investors (a euphemism) want to tear down the place and build a new, modern joint that will pack in the younger high rollers. A sentimentalist at heart, as well as a gangster, Shelley wants Shangri-la - which does turn a profit as he points out to the guys demanding change - to stick it out as the last classy, old style casino. This is the stuff of eyeball to eyeball confrontation.

Natalie is the catalyst for a change in Bernie's luck - and lust. From an initially awkward conjoining, the two fall deeply in love and find they're in synch in the sack. So she's no longer a catalyst, she's the Significant Other.

Bernie has some family issues with his lackluster son and Natalie has to deal with problems with Shelley that would merit a lawsuit about a hostile workplace . Shelley - poor guy - really needs a dedicated cooler, Bernie is the best and he knows, he thinks, how to insure renewed employee dedication.

No Nevada gaming authority or cops here - this casino seems to be in a parallel universe where the honchos make their own rules independent of even the semblance of regulation. There can't really be a Shangri-la like this place in Las Vegas (I'm sort of sure).

Macy delivers a terrific performance as a schlepp who finds he has the heart of if not a lion at least a fierce tabby. Bello handles the shifting moods of her character very well-she's a good actress. And very pretty. Baldwin turns in a predictably dependable job as a tired mobster/businessman who holds true to values rejected by the new generation of Organized Crime wiz kids (one persistent pest sent to remake the casino is dismissed as a "Harvard turd").

All in all, a good movie especially because it showcases Macy in an unexpected role where he demonstrates the depth of his enormous acting ability.

WARNING: Very explicit sexuality and some in-your-face brutality. Not for kids.

7/10.

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18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Leaving Las Vegas

8/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
20 December 2003

This film directed by Wayne Kramer has a more realistic approach to what goes on in casinos and other seedy gambling places, a far cry to the new Disneylike-Las Vegas of today.

Just to think that this poor loser Bernie can attract the gorgeous Natalie is enough for him to think: Gee, what's wrong with this picture?...Bernie hasn't scored with a babe in quite a while, so when he gets so lucky in bed, it's the moment to call it quits and take the next Greyhound out of town because things like that can only happen to schmucks, or in this case, to this 'cooler', as his boss calls him. One has to really have an open mind to even think this Natalie will fall in love with Bernie.

The idea of how people can be jinxed by these casino reptilians is a thing not to be believed. If it exists, I don't know, not being into gambling, but then, the world of gamblers are full of superstitions.

William H. Macy is an actor that is always interesting to watch. His Bernie is a flawed character, but inside he is a decent person who wants to get out of his present occupation. Maria Bello is excellent as the woman who will stand by her man.

The real surprise of the film is Alec Baldwin. This is, without a doubt, the best role in quite a while for him. His Shelly is a man without scruples who is ruthless with those that dare to cross him. He actually deserves better material where he can excel.

This film was a pleasant surprise because of the acting that Mr. Kramer has elicited from his cast.

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16 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyable movie with some warts

6/10
Author: Prutnumse from Copenhagen, Denmark
29 September 2006

I enjoyed this movie. Wonderful performances all over, especially by Baldwin and Macy. Also, I felt intrigued by the character that Baldwin portrayed - a bad guy for whom you feel sorry. You don't see that every day, in your typical run-of-the-mill Hollywood movie. So why didn't it receive more than a six from me? One word: Predictability. All the supposedly interesting little plot-twists, you could see them coming a mile away. Also, the dialogue was at times somewhat cliché ("You don't have any real friends" or "I think I love you. No, wait. I'm *sure* I love you." - lines like these are going to come out goofy, even from the mouths of great actors.

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