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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.78%
Worth A Look47.78%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 16.67%
Total Crap: 1.11%

8 reviews, 42 user ratings

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Cooler, The
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by EricDSnider

"Macy shows his stuff -- all of his stuff -- in this very cool romance."
4 stars

Imagine a man so unlucky, a casino employs him to walk around the floor, casually touching gamblers who are winning too much and instantly changing their fortunes.

Now try imagine someone playing this character with more credibility or soul than William H. Macy. Macy is so adept at delivering gentle, powerful portrayals of melancholy types that his work here seems ingrained into the script (by first-timers Frank Hannah and Wayne Kramer), like no one could have conceived the character without also conceiving Macy to play him.

The man is named Bernie Lootz, and his poor luck caused him to rack up considerable debts at a Las Vegas casino some years ago. In order to work off the money he owes, he has come under the employ of Shelly Kaplow (a humorously vulgar and swaggering Alec Baldwin), who has him perform the job duties previously described. He's a "cooler," assigned to cool the winning streaks of lucky gamblers.

Whether these coolers ever actually existed in Vegas, I don't know. But the concept works perfectly with Shelly, an old-school, Mob-affiliated casino owner who objects to the theme-park-ification of Las Vegas. While modern businessmen, such as the suits brought in to liven things up at Shelly's Shangri-La, would scoff at such a superstitious notion, Shelly buys into fully -- and the fact is, Bernie is an excellent cooler.

When the film begins, Bernie has just six days left before the end of his indentured servitude. A born loser like him has no life (just an ex-wife and a grown son, played by Shawn Hatosy), so he needs to escape Vegas and attempt to start one. Shelly wants him to stay, of course, but lacks the persuasive power to keep him. The only thing that could reach a sad-sack like Bernie is ... a woman.

Arriving on the scene is Natalie (Maria Bello), a lovely cocktail waitress who is inexplicably smitten with Bernie. He can't believe his good fortune -- this is a man who thought good fortune had given up on him entirely -- but sure enough, Natalie loves him. Who ever said love was logical?

This is a most original, most unusual love story, the likes of which are rarely seen anymore. Bernie and Natalie's relationship, directed with surprising frankness by co-writer Wayne Kramer, is blissful and unassuming. Macy's characteristic understatement, punctuated by a wry sense of humor, blends nicely with Bello's damaged-goods persona as Natalie. The film's sex and violence are oddly graphic at times, but under it all is a beautifully romantic heart.

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originally posted: 01/31/03 14:36:31
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This film is available for download or online viewing at For more in the series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/07/15 Jamie love this movie-alec baldwin is superb as are all the other actors 5 stars
6/11/09 mr.mike Could've done without the fairy tale aspect. 3.5 stars. 3 stars
11/04/08 CTT Kicky directorial flourish cannot save downer flick 2 stars
11/28/06 Indrid Cold There's sure a lot of these unde-the-radar Macy movies. They're usually pretty good. 4 stars
9/28/06 yumpykid An AWESOME MOVIE. Performances are fantastic. 4 stars
7/25/06 Marty loved baldwin and the plot. great view of vegas, annoying sax music stuck in head 4 stars
11/10/05 JamesCole Baldwin never better than in this FABLE of losers trying to beat the odds. 5 stars
9/18/05 lucee Boring, amazingly boring. Actually has a driving-into-the-sunset fiinish. 1 stars
8/19/05 ES good movie but the ending was far too neat and easy 3 stars
7/11/05 pin Baldwin was aces. Story was craps. 2 stars
2/12/05 axe Macy deserves a role in TILT, he makes a perfect "to-be-discontinued" character 4 stars
11/23/04 Kamal Ariffin Shah most enjoyable !! 4 stars
10/02/04 malcolm why doesn't a wonderful film like this get marketed like Alien vs Predator????????????????? 5 stars
9/08/04 Gary Dover Liked it...good piece of work by the actors...took nerve for Macy to do that love scene... 4 stars
6/13/04 Helen Bradley Baldwin very good, too long 2 stars
6/01/04 Agent Sands Sorvino's heroin scene makes me weak, but the movie overall is well done. 5 stars
5/22/04 john bale Gritty but uplifting Vagas saga with standout performances by Macy, Baldwin and Bello 5 stars
5/02/04 Phil M. Aficiando Terrific casting and acting; fun and bold; a little too hokey, but not enough to spoil it 4 stars
3/10/04 Debbie I just saw this movie last night...absolutely loved it. 5 stars
2/29/04 jimmy two times classic baldwin. basic concept told very well. Casino meets Owning Mahoney. 4 stars
2/06/04 No Oscar for Baldwin, please! Baldwin's character could've vastly improved the film by dying a lot sooner! 3 stars
1/25/04 Alec Baldwin's Love Child Alec Baldwin deserves a fucking Oscar for this. 5 stars
1/25/04 Suzz love conquers all melodrama; too violent 3 stars
1/24/04 john wonderful acting, funny, right on, touching, great little flick 5 stars
1/24/04 Jack Bourbon Good movie, but Maria Bello needs to hit the stairmaster ASAP 4 stars
1/23/04 B. L. Brueckner I little too far fetched, but excellent acting. 4 stars
1/18/04 hp tremendous acting/a bit bloody realistic 4 stars
11/29/03 Jack the Dagger awesome movie great performances nice story much better than all the other crap playing. 5 stars
11/24/03 hymie moscowitz alec baldwin for best supporting actor 2003! alec baldwin for president 2004!!! 5 stars
11/19/03 Dave Stylish, humorous, with wonderful performances. 5 stars
11/11/03 Chris Absolutely great. Bill Macy as always a joy to watch, and is what films are about. 5 stars
10/27/03 How10 A fable for adults. Well acted and produced 4 stars
10/23/03 Syrie B. low-stakes, predictable plot; "fuggetaboudit" dialogu 3 stars
10/23/03 Liz Hart Decent B movie, more nuance in the performances than in either the directing or writing 3 stars
4/09/03 Joe Madden unassuming love story 5 stars
3/29/03 Bluto McBlurt Great performances, a fantastic flick. 5 stars
3/16/03 David P. Wilson Outstanding! 5 stars
1/31/03 Alex best movie (of 12) I saw at Sundance 5 stars
1/27/03 Nolan Carr Truly amazing! They don't make 'em like this anymore. 5 stars
1/26/03 Joe Madden awesome 5 stars
1/23/03 Mr Math Baldwin is fantastic, and I usually can't stand him. 5 stars
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  26-Nov-2003 (R)
  DVD: 27-Apr-2004


  20-May-2004 (MA)

Directed by
  Wayne Kramer

Written by
  Wayne Kramer

  William H. Macy
  Maria Bello
  Alec Baldwin
  Ron Livingstone
  Paul Sorvino
  Joey Fatone

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