Lions Gate Films | Release Date: November 26, 2003
6.7
USER SCORE
Generally favorable reviews based on 44 Ratings
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26
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13
Negative:
5
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4
MatthewB.Apr 19, 2010
Awful film. While Leaving los vegas was revolutionary, this pursues the same situation, if not the same story, with little realism or panache. Alec Baldwin's actin is good, and won a few awards, but William Macy seems off-key in his Awful film. While Leaving los vegas was revolutionary, this pursues the same situation, if not the same story, with little realism or panache. Alec Baldwin's actin is good, and won a few awards, but William Macy seems off-key in his attempt to portray lovable loser Bernie. The romance seems improbable to say the least, and the dialogue is both boring and entirely predictable- add to that the offense of a main character with seemingly supernatural unluckiness, and you have a near-disaster. If it weren't for the sex scenes- which were brave, if overly improbable again - I wouldn't've felt the slightest amount of thrill at this unhappy loser of a dvd. Good luck would be to avoid it. Expand
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2
PValentineJan 27, 2006
The whimsy is undercut by the violence and the sex and while it got the whole aura of a dusty casino and dusty people down what was interesting about it? The "love" story was NOT believable to me at the "I'm willing to lose my life for The whimsy is undercut by the violence and the sex and while it got the whole aura of a dusty casino and dusty people down what was interesting about it? The "love" story was NOT believable to me at the "I'm willing to lose my life for him" level. Expand
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4
RirenFeb 26, 2007
The leftovers of Casino, served up with a side of morose independent movie spirit. Its so-called love story is half-hearted, an excuse for some uninteresting and brazen sex scenes. William Macy is an amazing actor who I'd watch doing The leftovers of Casino, served up with a side of morose independent movie spirit. Its so-called love story is half-hearted, an excuse for some uninteresting and brazen sex scenes. William Macy is an amazing actor who I'd watch doing anything, but doing a blonde and frowning at a poker table are a waste of his talents. The movie seals its fate by throwing a dozen false endings at you, none more creative or plausible than the last. I guess they thought they were being clever. They were wrong. Expand
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6
SpangleDec 14, 2016
The Cooler is a low-key early 2000s film that has an almost mystical or fantastical feeling to its very realistic setting, in large due to it taking place in Las Vegas. A dream-like environment in the real world, The Cooler captures thisThe Cooler is a low-key early 2000s film that has an almost mystical or fantastical feeling to its very realistic setting, in large due to it taking place in Las Vegas. A dream-like environment in the real world, The Cooler captures this feeling as it tells the story of the unluckiest man on Earth, Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy). A "cooler" for the Shangri-La casino, Bernie's luck begins to turn around when he meets Natalie (Maria Bello). However, drama arises when it becomes clear that Bernie's cruel, old-school mobster and casino head Shelly (Alec Baldwin) will not let this change of fate happen for Bernie. A character study, The Cooler is a pretty down-to-earth film with nothing extravagant about it and it is a worthy film in this area, but the ending feels far too happy for the subject matter.

In a typically great performance, Macy plays the unlucky and deeply depressed Bernie incredibly well. Emoting the change of fate due to the addition of Natalie to his life, Macy really brings life to the character throughout and does a great job creating sympathy for this sad soul. Through dialogue and small visual cues (such as the cream in the coffee), director Wayne Kramer expertly highlights the difference in Bernie and his aura that surrounds him. At the beginning, when he came on screen, the screen itself felt cold and unwelcoming. By the end, it had a certain warmth and level of comfort that was discovered by Bernie in his scenes with Natalie. Yet, the best part of this movie is Alec Baldwin. Hands down. He did not get a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for this role for no reason. Cold, calculating, yet alone, outmatched, and much like a lion being left for dead by his pride, Baldwin is a brutal, yet oddly sympathetic figure at times. Playing this dichotomy very well, Baldwin somehow elicits compassion from the audience despite the horrible actions he partakes in as a mobster and casino owner. By the end, we realize he acts out of pain and desperation in order to keep his control and really becomes a tragic figure by the end. His horrible actions are still inexcusable, such as his abuse of Natalie, but he is a far more complicated figure than one might expect and Baldwin excels in this role here.

Unfortunately this character study, while engaging, is undone by a silly happy ending. Though the film feels as though it spiraling towards a certain conclusion that would fit with the trajectory of its tragic figures, it cops out at the end and opts to give us a lovey dovey conclusion. Not only is it uncharacteristic for the film itself, but it is far too abrupt and, if it needed to be include, should have felt far more seamless and less jarring.

The romance between Natalie and Bernie has a loose and natural feeling that helps it blend into the rest of the film. Though a weaker element compared to the scenes in the casino, the romance still largely works, even if it is incredibly contrived and cliche. From being paid to actual love to trying to run away, the romance in The Cooler may work because of some odd chemistry between Macy and Bello, but it is hardly worthy of the focus it receives in the film as a whole. It is a shame that we did not get more of the relationship between Bernie and Shelly, in particular the issues regarding the casino and its future. There is far more meat on those bones, than in the scenes of romance. While largely well crafted, it is not due to originality or intrigue, but merely rides on the talent of its actors.

A low-key character study, The Cooler is a finely paced and compelling story set in Las Vegas. Graced with the a mystical feeling, The Cooler develops terrific characters, but a cliche romance element and a jarring ending hold the film back from being anything but above average to pretty good. Yet, it is hard to deny that its actors, particularly Alec Baldwin, are absolutely brilliant and the direction by Wayne Kramer is great with terrific subtleties to reveal the true nature of the characters he puts under the microscope.
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