The Cooler


The Cooler

Critics Consensus

A small movie elevated by superb performances.



Total Count: 173


Audience Score

User Ratings: 19,230
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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.


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
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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Critic Reviews for The Cooler

All Critics (173) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (133) | Rotten (40)

Audience Reviews for The Cooler

  • Sep 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.
    Kevin M Super Reviewer
  • May 08, 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!
    paul o Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 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.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 12, 2011
    Maria Bello and Bill Macy are solid as always, but the movie overall was a letdown.
    Wu C Super Reviewer

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