Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. Look for realism, and you'll find The Cooler disappointing. Look for a far-fetched yarn that's as unpredictable as a throw of the dice, though, and you'll find it engaging fun.
  2. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    A refreshing throwback to another era of moviemaking: This movie was poured from the bottle, not one of those bar regulator machines. It's got the kick, style and flavor of a straight-up story, before movies were watered down with the opinions of marketers, lawyers and committee heads.
  3. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Wayne Kramer's sexy and often humorous feature directorial debut surrounds its sweet center with the energy, flash and risk of the gambling capital. Sterling performances by William H. Macy and Maria Bello as the long-shot lovers and Alec Baldwin as a temperamental casino operator.
  4. 88
    Wayne Kramer, who co-wrote the scrappy script with Frank Hannah, makes a potent directing debut and strikes gold with the cast.
  5. 88
    The acting is on the money, the writing has substance, the direction knows when to evoke film noir and when (in a trick shot involving loaded dice) to get fancy.
  6. 88
    The movie boasts one of those rare twist endings that strikes the right emotional chords, and it deserves credit for laying its bets on a sexy, sympathetic Macy. Sometimes long shots pay off.
  7. 88
    The best thing Baldwin has done in years, and a triumph of low-budget storytelling by a director to watch.
  8. The Cooler is small-scale moviemaking about small-scale lives. But it's big in all the right ways.
  9. 83
    The highlights of The Cooler -- the portrait of Bernie-as-schlub, the ecstatic union of two losers, the depiction of shadowy old Vegas confronted with its sanitized corporate future -- are superb. You can easily live with the rest to get to them.

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