The Cooler


The Cooler (2003)


Critic Consensus: A small movie elevated by superb performances.


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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 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.

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William H. Macy
as Bernie Lootz
Alec Baldwin
as Shelley Kaplow
Maria Bello
as Natalie Belisario
Ron Livingston
as Larry Sokolov
Paul Sorvino
as Buddy Stafford
Arthur J. Nascarella
as Nickey `Fingers' Bonnatto
Joey Fatone
as Johnny Capella
M.C. Gainey
as Highway Cop
Richard Israel
as Marty Goldfarb
T. J. Gioia
as Bulldog
T.J. Gioia
as Bulldog
Gordon Michaels
as Mr. Pinkerton
Doc Watson
as Morrie
Dan Lemieux
as Suburbanite
Larry Elliott
as Floor Manager
Joe Conti
as Pit Boss
Norbert Ganska
as Stickman #1
Andrew Simbeck
as Stickman #2
Danny Grossen
as Stickman #3
Jeff Hill
as Stickman #4
Monet Beaman
as Stickman #5
Bryon Baker
as Stickman #6
James McCarthy
as Televangelist
Frank Hannah
as Dealer #2
Monica White
as Johnny Capella's Girls
Heather McHenry
as Johnny Capella's Girls
M.C. Fatone
as Highway Officer
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News & Interviews for The Cooler

Critic Reviews for The Cooler

All Critics (173) | Top Critics (39)

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.

Jan 16, 2004 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

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.

Jan 16, 2004 | Rating: 4/5

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

Jan 16, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4

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

Jan 16, 2004 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

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.

Jan 15, 2004 | Rating: B-

Had The Cooler stuck to its dark guns and not turned into a treacly, love-conquers-all fairy tale, this movie might have gone somewhere.

Dec 19, 2003

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!

paul oh
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.

Chris Weber
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.

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

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.

Gordon Anderson
Gordon Anderson

Super Reviewer

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