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    The Cooler

    Cooler than what?

    "The Cooler" is a casino drama so stale that it smothers some fine performances by William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin and Maria Bello.


    An all-too-familiar quasi-fairy-tale / love-story, set against changing times in the night-for-day world of Las Vegas.

    Directed by: Wayne Kramer.
    Written by: Frank Hannah, Wayne Kramer.
    Cast: William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello, Shawn Hatosy, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino, Estella Warren, Arthur J. Nascarella, Joey Fatone, M.C. Gainey.

    Related links: Official site
    Come on, another film set in Las Vegas? Don't we already have "Hard Eight," "Leaving Las Vegas," "Ocean's Eleven," "Owning Mahoney," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Viva Rock Vegas" "Casino" and "Bugsy" plus television's "The Rat Pack," "Lucky" and — "LAS VEGAS"?!!!

    Forgive the laundry list, but the turf's played out. Wayne Kramer's "The Cooler" offers one original idea (bad luck can actually rub off from a real bad-luck guy onto those around him) plus several really good performances (from William H. Macy, Maria Bello and Alec Baldwin). But director/co-writer Kramer saddles his actors with a shopworn setting featuring standard-issue backgrounds — casino shots are after all, casino shots — and "The Cooler"'s characters play for the most part like an attenuated episode of "Crime Story," Michael Mann's vintage '80s TV series.

    In a nutshell, hard-luck loser Bernie Lootz (Macy) — a human version of that little cartoon guy with the rain cloud over his head in "L'il Abner" — is the "cooler" for the Shangri-La Casino, run by sadistic old-time boss, Shelly Kaplow (Baldwin). Bernie's job is to stand next to anyone who's winning and "cool" them — change their good luck to bad. Enter Natalie (Bello of "ER," "Auto Focus," "Coyote Ugly"), a much younger waitress with her own hard luck story and ... do I need to spell it out? Yeah, love and a change of luck ensue.

    Except for Macy's character, there's little or nothing original in the entire 103 minutes, which seems longer thanks to such gratuitous twists and turns as lost relatives and incessantly metaphoric palaver about modernizing the casino and what that bodes for the villainous Kaplow and his old-fashioned ways. Baldwin underplays Kaplow perfectly — in his new character status he's far more interesting than during his former leading-man days.

    Oh, yes, there are those explicit sex scenes you've probably heard about — but so carefully re-edited that they too seem overly familiar. Still, if female pubic hair's your thing, there's a crotch shot or two remaining. But the hang-dog Macy and the attractive Bello generate more good will than heat. The actors are so good, you want their characters to find happiness, but even more you want them to find better scripts.

    DECEMBER 5, 2003

    Reader comments on The Cooler:

  • Cool Cooler   from beachcaster, Jan 4, 2004
  • The Cooler Actor   from Carolyn , Jan 11, 2009

  • Post a comment on "The Cooler"