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The Cooler

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Cooler

Starring: Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello
Director: Wayne Kramer
Rated: R
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: November 2003
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Shawn Hatosy, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino, Estella Warren, Arthur J. Nascarella, Joey Fatone, M.C. Gainey, Don Scribner, Tony Longo, Richard Israel

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Set in Las Vegas at the aging Shangri-La Casino, this is the story of Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy), a man whose luck is so bad that it radiates damaging karma, condemning those around him. He's known as a "cooler," meaning that his mere presence can subdue a hot streak or stop a run on the house as he innocuously ambles from table to table. In fact, his talent for devastation is so reliable that he's almost finished working off a gambling debt to the casino's volatile boss, Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin). But that all changes when Bernie falls for a sexy, enticing cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) who, to his surprise, returns his adoration. Suddenly, Lady Luck seems to be smiling on Bernie - which is not a good thing for a man who has built a reputation as a loser.

Writer-director Wayne Kramer and co-writer Frank Hannah keep the tension taut, even while working in subplots about the demise of a junkie lounge singer (Paul Sorvino), the sudden appearance of Bernie's estranged son (Shawn Hatosy) with a pregnant girl-friend (Estella Warren), and plans for modernizing the Shangri-La with a timely subtext on the future of the bright lights of the Vegas Strip. But, above all, this is a brilliant tour-de-force for the perennially underestimated character actor William H. Macy, whose hang-dog look and sad-sack physicality personify his low-life character. Maria Bello is convincing and Alec Baldwin is in top form as the nasty, menacing operations director, evoking memories of his turn in "Glengarry Glen Ross." On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Cooler" is an intriguing, suspenseful 7. If strong performances intrigue you, gamble on this one.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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