• R, 1 hr. 43 min.
  • Drama, Romance
  • Directed By:
    Wayne Kramer
    In Theaters:
    Nov 26, 2003 Wide
    On DVD:
    Apr 27, 2004
  • Lions Gate Films


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The Cooler Reviews

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paul o.
paul o.

Super Reviewer

May 8, 2012
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!

Super Reviewer

January 7, 2012
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.
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

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

Super Reviewer

September 22, 2010
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.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

September 29, 2009
A very stylish, intelligent and cool film. I found the beginning sequence of the demolition of classic casinos extremely moving and I?ve never even been to Vagas! Recommended!
Ken S

Super Reviewer

April 19, 2007
I can't help but say the name of this film like the German's in the great escape.
Cassandra M

Super Reviewer

April 16, 2009
A "cooler" is a guy who stands next to you in a casino when you are having a winning streak that is suddenly interrupted. It is someone who has such a bad luck that people around him are influenced; he could be pretty important for casino bosses. The cooler here is Bernie and the face of William H. Macy is perfect for him. The casino boss is Shelly in a wonderful performance from Alec Baldwin. Soon Bernie will leave, but not before he has met and fallen in love with Natalie, played by Maria Bello (for me only known from 'Payback', 'Coyote Ugly' and "A history of violence"), a third terrific performance. She seems to like him also and suddenly that means Bernie is lucky. This will give, unfortunately for Shelly and therefore himself as well, results on the casino floor. Things are getting complicated.

The story is pretty original and entertaining on itself. A sub-plot that deals with the idea of remodeling the casino into a more modern one, not if it is up to Shelly, gives him a reason to be annoyed and show his more cruel side. Baldwin is at best in these scenes. The performances take the film to the next level. Baldwin won an Oscar nomination and it is pretty clear why. You believe him the entire time, no matter what he does. From Macy we expect a good performance, he is one of the best character-actors out there. I was also pleasantly surprised with Bello, an Oscar nomination would not have been strange here; she is very good, even great in the scenes with Macy. In the end 'The Cooler' is a good film, becoming better through performances, amusing all the way through.

Super Reviewer

November 13, 2008
"When your life depends on losing... the last thing you need is lady luck."

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 Natalie Belisario (Maria Bello). The two start to fall in love and Bernie's luck begins to change. However, the old-fashioned mob boss Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin) isn't going to let Bernie go so easily. Meanwhile, Larry Sokolov (Ron Livingston) arrives on the scene to help update the business management of the old mobster-run casino. Also starring Joey Fatone and Paul Sorvino as lounge singers. The Cooler was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic competition at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.

This movie is definitely worth seeing. Thinking back, all the buzz around Baldwin's performance is worthy. I thought Bello was good, just not so good as to garner all the praise for the role. Of course Macy is always great, and this seems like a role written just for him. It's great to see him in a lead role. Without giving away anything, the story got some interesting turns, but I kind of expected the ending from the flow of the movie. Maybe not precisely, but the gist of it...there was one loose end I would've liked tied up. With the time spent on the specific sub-plot, you'll probably also wonder.

Great old school Vegas casino. It adds a fun background, especially if you like playing the odds.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

October 30, 2008
Overall a pretty well done movie. The trio of Macy, Bello, and Baldwin are outstanding, and really elevate this "Vegas" movie. I didn't buy some of the streotypes in this one, such as when Baldwin is shown beating up a guy ruthlessly. Do all casino owners in every movie of this type have to be the mobster psycho types? Besides that, as said, the acting is fantastic, and while the ending leaves more to be desired, if you like casino movies and you like the character William H. Macy has mastered playing, you might wanna check this out.
Fernando Rafael Q

Super Reviewer

May 18, 2008
The Cooler is not that cool... The direction is terrible, thank God there's a good script to save the day. William H. Macy is very good, and it's too bad that Maria Bello wasn't. Ron Livingston was really bad and the ending, unplausible (even for this film). Shawn Hatosy and Estella Warren were OK, and ALEC BALDWIN was terrific as the ultimate asshole, Shelly.

Super Reviewer

March 3, 2008
Excellent title, not as cool as it suggests but descent.
Al S

Super Reviewer

August 16, 2006
It"s a great gamble. Cool, Sensational and Powerful. William H. Macy is pitch perfect. Alec Baldwin is a powerhouse. It's his best performance ever. Maria Bello is electric. It's funny, riveting and electrifying. This is one great film. Terifficaly original. A fantastic casino movie. Bottom-line jack-pott. Dazzeling satisfying.
Red L

Super Reviewer

August 12, 2007
I enjoyed the movie. I wonder if Las Vegas is anything like this though -- it didn't feel like it was last time I visited a few months ago. Maria Bello is pretty. The movie feels older than its release date of 2003
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

July 8, 2007
Shelly: That guy is kryptonite on a stick.

William H. Macy is given the lead romantic role in this romantic/vegas/gangster/comedy/drama. Its a lot of elements thrown into one offbeat love story filled with plenty of superstition.

It revolves around Macy's character. He is a "cooler". A man that has so much bad luck, he is employed to hang around the casino and end people's winning streaks.

Things change when he meets a waitress played by Maria Bello. They form an instant bond and his luck changes.

This is bad news for Alec Baldwin, the owner of the casino, who put Macy in his place. These problems could not come at a good time for Baldwin, as his casino is about to change from the old-fashion type that it is, into the family friendly casino type that fills the Vegas strip.

The movie works because of the performances of these three characters. It also helps that the score and the direction of the film are very well handled. The film shows the other side of Vegas, away from the strip, and makes it look great. Its also particularly fun to see Macy's life brighten up as things continue to change for him.

A good film about love, violence, and chance.

Bernie: Better luck next time.
Dean !

Super Reviewer

June 10, 2007
A good drama film. A guy blessed with bad luck is hired by a 2nd string Las Vegas casino to "cool" any tables where someone is winning too much. After meeting a waitress (Maria Bello) at the casino could his luck change and what will his boss do if it does? Underrated film many have probably not heard of but quite enjoyable if a bit slow to start.

Super Reviewer

December 26, 2006
Macy's batch I could have done without. And Mario Bello has officially replaced Laura Linney as The Most Unappealing Actress In The World Ever.
Jens S

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2007
Decent romantic comedy, although sometimes a little undecided if it really wants to be that, with dramatic and even very violent aspects. The acting is excellent, though. William H. Macy and Maria Bello really make you care for their characters and Alex Baldwin is a great asshole. Entertaining.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

November 19, 2006
A great character-driven movie.
Rico Z

Super Reviewer

July 4, 2006
A heart-felt drama about a loser who helps make other losers. But what he realizes is that he's not such a loser afterall. William H. Macy is superb and Maria Bello is enchanting.
Kevin M

Super Reviewer

September 12, 2012
I liked this movie a lot. Solid performances all around, particularly from Alec Baldwin. The actual premise is pretty unrealistic: William H. Macy plays a man who goes around from table to table in a Vegas casino so he can bring bad luck down on a player who's winning too much. Things get really interesting when his son comes into the mix and asks him for money so he can support his pregnant wife. Things get out of control when Baldwin and his son collide in a shocking, jaw dropping, and incredibly well done scene. Character development is noticeably present, as Macy's luck changes when he falls in love with a waitress at the casino (maria Bello). Her acting is fantastic as well. If it weren't for these great performances, The Cooler would have been dragged down, but luckily the acting fleshes out the plot. With excellent performances and an awesome original score, The Cooler works quite well. Final score: 8.5.
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