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THE COOLER Is Just Lucky Enough To Pull Its Conventional Story Off Well
The unluckiest man in Las Vegas, Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy), is employed by a casino as a “cooler” to defuse winning streaks. But when Lootz falls in love with a cocktail waitress (Maria Bello), she becomes his “lady luck” — to the chagrin of the casino’s crooked director (Alec Baldwin). What most people won’t get right away that this is not your usual, big-budget Vegas film that shows all the glitz and glamor of Sin City. Which in a way, worked a hell of a lot better for me.
The film just looks so breezy with its production design and beautiful look at Las Vegas. It doesn’t look like Leaving Las Vegas by any chance but more of the P.T. Anderson flick Hard Eight, where all the slots, cards, chips, money, and lights just all look so beautiful and colorful that it really had me feeling as if I was actually in a Vegas casino.
However, looks aside, this film has some good stuff here underneath all the looks. The heart of this film is shown within the romance that at first seems highly unlikely, but then you really start to fall for it. You get some funny lines here and there, but it’s really a romantic drama that seems to show just how sometimes in life, you just gotta play the gamble or you won’t ever win. You feel involved with these characters and you enjoy watching them which is why I kind of got very disappointed.
The disappointment here came within the fact that by the end of the film it starts to turn into this conventional, love-conquers-all romance fairy tale. The whole time this film had me really believing in their romance, but then by the last 30 minutes it starts to dive into this film that sort of just seems unrealistic in its way of showing how much two people really do love each other, and will stop at nothing to be with each other. In some films, these seem like a very sweet and good theme. Here, it just seems pretty cheesy.
There are also some very explicit sex scenes that don’t seem “realistic” and instead feel like graphic nudity just to shock people. I get that this film wanted to show these two so-so in love by having them run around the place butt-naked, but by the third time I saw Macy’s behind I started to just see where this film was going, and to be honest, there was no real reason for it to go there in the first place because it just took me a bit out of the relationship.
William H. Macy is great as Bernie, our lovable loser for the hour-and-a-half. This guy is such a dread as a character that after awhile I started to totally sympathize with him and just root him on hoping for the best. He’s a loser and he knows it, and Macy just keeps the sadness within this character going on for quite some time until Natalie walks into his life, which totally livens him up. Maria Bello is also very good as Natalie because she portrays a combination of the goodness and trashiness her character shows, both, in many ways. The chemistry her and Macy build together seems very believable and is probably one of the main reasons why I bought the romance.
The real highlight of The Cooler is probably Alec Baldwin as the rough-and-tough gangster, Shelly Kaplow. Baldwin is just such a bad-ass in this role because every scene completely terrified me by just what the hell this guy was going to do next. He was vicious and would kill one of his good friends just for his business to run smoothly. Baldwin was nominated for an Oscar and with good reason because he just has that perfect ruthlessness that makes him seem less like a parody of an old mobster, and more of a guy who just wants to make good business and will beat the crap out of anybody who stands in his way. I sure as hell don’t want to be caught taking a leak next to him!
Consensus: The Cooler is a well-written character study, with good performances from the cast, but the story starts to fall apart by the last hour because of the fairy tale theme and its random graphic sexual nudity that seemed nothing more than just present to be shocking.