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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 Chris Parry

"When this is out on DVD, I'll be buying it. Macy is on fire."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: There are two sides to Las Vegas. There’s the new, flashy, theme-based side, full of rollercoasters and flashing lights and huge amounts of money and family entertainment, and then there’s old Vegas… they’ve got the flashing lights, but that’s about where it ends. Old Vegas is where things used to be hot, where lounge singers were megastars and where the mob was intrinsically linked to the money. In this film, William H. Macy is Bernie, a sap so riddled with bad luck that he’s employed as a ‘cooler’. That is, he’s called to stand near a gambler on a hot streak with a view to letting his bad luck rub off on them. Bernie’s good at what he does, but he only does it because he’s in debt to the casino for $150,000. That’s all about to change in six days as Bernie has nearly paid his debt and plans to leave Vegas forever the moment he’s officially free. But when the big day comes, will the casino let their bad luck charm go?

This is a movie that, while you couldn’t claim it was a masterwork, you most certainly couldn’t say that it isn’t worth a $10 ticket. Bill Macy is built for roles like this – a little slow, a little feeble, kind-hearted but always the underdog. In The Cooler, Macy is at his best. He has the power to express an entire sentence with nervous looks, the occasional tic and body language, and he does that here in spades. Perhaps surprisingly, Maria Bello matches him at every step, showing that she’s far more than a pretty face while convincing the audience that, despite the obvious differences in their physical beauty, she does indeed fall for the man.

But this contest has only one true champion, and that man is Alec Baldwin. Cast as an old Vegas mafia-connected casino boss, he revels in lines that just drip with venom, humor and occasionally silliness. Baldwin certainly has the best lines in the film and just digs the chance to ham it up, something he does completely. While writer/director Wayne Kramer paints a very real picture of Vegas noir, he offsets the depression of the story by infusing it with a little knowing tip of the hat. Clearly Kramer doesn’t intend this to be a life-changer, but he does want the audience to get something out of the experience – some laughs, some drama and some romance. Inevitably some people will claim that the film isn’t realistic, but those people merely show themselves to have missed the point. Obviously Kramer doesn’t want this to be totally realistic or he wouldn’t have based the tale’s very concept on a guy who passes bad luck on to others for a living.

The last few minutes totally give this away as, in my opinion, they stretch believability beyond the point of silliness, but the rest of the film is so damn good that a hiccup at the end just doesn’t matter. Enjoy it for what it is and watch Baldwin play the ham.

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originally posted: 01/23/03 10:09:51
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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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