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The Cooler (2003)



Average Rating: 7.2/10
Critic Reviews: 39
Fresh: 35 | Rotten: 4

A small movie elevated by superb performances.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 18,905

My Rating

Movie Info

Writer/director Wayne Kramer offers a glimpse into the aging Las Vegas casino world with the romantic drama The Cooler. Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is extremely unlucky at gambling, and he owes the Shangri-La casino over 100,000 dollars. He is so unlucky that he is hired as a "cooler," someone to gamble next to high rollers and give them some of his bad luck to stop them from winning. This arrangement works out for awhile, until Bernie has almost paid off his debt and meets cocktail waitress


Drama, Romance

Frank Hannah, Wayne Kramer

Apr 27, 2004


Lions Gate Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (178) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (131) | Rotten (40) | DVD (27)

In reconstructing Macy's equal-opportunity loser persona as a romantic winner, The Cooler forgets what made its star so winning in the first place.

January 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A B-movie in the best sense: Unpretentious. Raffish. Just trashy enough to be six kinds of fun without making you hate yourself in the morning.

January 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kramer has gotten strong performances from his cast (Baldwin is particularly good as the strangely likable, but still horrible, casino owner).

January 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A movie without a compass, switching pace and direction as haphazardly as a caffeinated SUV driver on a cellphone.

January 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's pretty winning for a long way, reminding us that everything in life is a kind of gamble, and if you don't play, you'll never win.

January 15, 2004 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"The Cooler" is a complex 'small' movie that packs a big punch.

May 11, 2009 Full Review Source:

A sweet underdog romantic dramedy...

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

What elevates this Vegas-set drama above the routine is the high-caliber acting of William H. Macy, Maria Bello, and especially Alex Baldwin, who received a well-deserved Oscar nomination.

December 28, 2008 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Avoid this film. It will eat your soul and vomit black bile in your face.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

Alec Baldwin se encarga de que Shelly sea por lejos el personaje más interesante de esta historia (...)

September 19, 2005 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

A pointless, money-depleting waste of time to be avoided at all costs.

May 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

A curious mix of thug violence, romance, and whimsy.

October 14, 2004 Full Review

The Cooler is too earnest a morality tale, saddled with derivative characters, to heat up much sympathy or interest.

September 30, 2004

... a postmodern noir that relies as much on audience complicity as the cleverness of the scam.

August 25, 2004 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Not the most thrilling nor plausible story you'll ever see, but it does have an earthy charm.

August 13, 2004 Full Review Source: Oregon Herald

The odds of things falling so much in someone's favour like they do here are ridiculously remote, but this neon fairytale is worth throwing your money away on.

August 5, 2004 Full Review Source: RTE Interactive (Dublin, Ireland)

One not to miss.

July 20, 2004 Full Review Source: FilmFocus

Macy wears his habitual hangdog expression like a cheap, crumpled suit that's been slept in a few too many times

June 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

Entertaining and well off the beaten path.

May 14, 2004

Una de esas cintas que deja un sabor de boca intenso y grato, que mejora conforme pasan las horas desde que se vio.

April 26, 2004

Macy performs this familiar role as adroitly as ever...but [doesn't] exactly break any new ground.

April 8, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online
Film Quips Online

William H. Macy is the ultimate loser and Alec Baldwin is an old school casino boss in director Wayne Kramer's near-perfect feature debut.

March 17, 2004 Full Review Source: IGN Movies
IGN Movies

The Las Vegas Kramer portrays in The Cooler is one that's derived from Scorsese but the wonderful, queasy mixture of violence and humor is Kramer's own.

March 10, 2004 Full Review Source: F5 (Wichita, KS)

'Un buen trabajo fílmico que vale la pena disfrutar por sus valores técnicos, estéticos y actorales, que son muchos'

February 26, 2004 Full Review Source: Moviola

Macy 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.

February 21, 2004 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for The Cooler

In some ways, the film can be seen as a fairy tale. The protagonist is weak but at the end becomes something beyond human with the help of his muse. Beautifully shot and captures the spirit of Vegas after dark very well!
May 8, 2012
paul o.
paul oh

Super Reviewer

From co-writer/director Wayne Kramer (but not the guy from the MC5) comes this stylish, charming, and underrated little gem of a movie about a professional loser. Bernie Lootz has perpetual bad luck, so he makes his living at a Vegas casino as a cooler- the guy they send in to end a gambler's hot streak. Bernie is great at his job, but his life (and his luck) begin to change when he meets and subsequently falls in love with Natalie, an utterly gorgeous waitress co-worker. This wouldn't be so bad if this change didn't also have an effect on Shelly Kaplow, the last of the old time gangster casino owners who is trying like hell to escape the Disneyfication of Vegas and keep things from changing.

Filled with a great jazzy score from Mark Isham, a new twist on an old plot, decent writing, and terrific acting from a first rate cast, this is an exceptional romantic dramedy. Well, mostly drama, since the bulk of the humor is rather dark and melancholy. Indeed, there are actually some really dark moments throughout, but it's nothing as downbeat as Leaving Las Vegas.

Macy is perfect as Bernie, and his weary facial expressions and impish mannerisms really nail the type of guy Bernie is. In many ways, this character is comparable to Macy's other perfect character Jerry from Fargo. MAria Bello is quite excellent as Natalie, and this film really helped her career take off. Turning in one of his last truly menacing dramatic performances is Alec Baldwin in an Oscar nominated turn as Shelly, the no-nonsense ruthless casino boss. Ron Livingston also is good in a supporting role as an Ivy League young gun trying to put Shelly out ot pasture.

This is some really great stuff. It's sometiems rather uneven with the mix of wry romance with the dark underside of Vegas poking through, but in the end it all comes full circle and ends as it should, though you do need to be cool with Deus Ex Machina type stuff in order to accept the climax. Give this one a shot. It's a shame it's not as revered as it nees to be.
April 16, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Yet another good William H. Macy movie. Very well made and well acted movie. Seems like this would really be something that casinos do.
October 14, 2010

Super Reviewer

Macy at his best supported by Bello as her star was rising and Baldwin at his scene stealing sinister peak. Just short of classic on account of the flimsy 'luck' premise being stretched beyond credulity.
September 22, 2010
Gordon A

Super Reviewer

    1. Shelly Kaplow: This is not a movie. It's my FUCKING LIFE!
    – Submitted by Melanie D (14 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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