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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 Brian McKay

"If William Macy is The Cooler, then Maria Bello is The Hottie"
4 stars

If William H. Macy has ever given a bad performance, I have yet to see it. Despite his Howdy-Doody looks and generally soft-spoken and hesitant persona, he proves himself leading man material once again in THE COOLER - even if he gets the show nearly stolen out from under him by Alec Baldwin.

Macy is Bernie Lootz, a washed-up loser who owes substantial gambling debts to casino manager Shelly Kaplow (Baldwin). After breaking his kneecap, Shelly allows Bernie to work off the debt by employing him as a "cooler" in his casino. The concept behind this is that Bernie is such a bad-luck, down-in-the-dumps loser that his bad luck rubs off onto others. Bernie circulates from table to table, spreading general malaise and killing winning streaks left and right.

If this sounds something like the Spanish film Intacto, in which "luck thieves" would steal the good luck of others and use it for their own gain, the similarities are superficial at best. While Intacto was a thriller exploring the supernatural gift of stealing luck, The Cooler is more of an observation on how bad luck is the result of self-fulfillment.

When Bernie's debt is almost paid off, he gives Shelly his week's notice with plans to get out of Vegas for good. Then he meets white trash cocktail waitress Natalie (Maria Bello), and finds that everything is changing. Suddenly his luck is on the rise, and while falling in love is great for Bernie, his newfound happiness isn't exactly conducive to his performance as a cooler. Suddenly Bernie is spreading joy instead of despondency - much to Shelly's chagrin.

Although it occasionally lapses into moments of near-TV-movie melodrama, The Cooler is a solid piece overall. Macy and Baldwin are strong in their roles (although I could have done without all those shots of Macy's ass), and the supporting roster includes Paul Sorvino as a heroin-addict lounge singer, and Ron Livingston as the syndicate consultant who frequently clashes with Shelly over ways to "improve" the casino.

One of the brightest points of The Cooler is Maria Bello's Natalie, whose on-screen relationship with Bernie never feels forced or contrived. And although slightly haggard-looking blonde cocktail waitresses aren't my usual preference, God damn that is one sexy woman. Thankfully, a peek or two at her naughty bits is the payoff for having to see Macy's bum, which almost left me as traumatized as the infamous Dennis Franz ass shot on N.Y.P.D. Blue.

Although some of Bernie's turns of luck seem far fetched (especially that last one), they work within the overall structure of the film's premise, which is that luck works in conjunction with attitude and disposition, and not always dependant on the caprice of fate. Or something like that.

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originally posted: 11/23/03 08:37:25
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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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