Projections - Movie Reviews

The Cooler
The Cooler
Starring William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello,
Shawn Hatosy, Estella Warren, Ron Livingston

The Cooler takes one into the world of gambling, this time beneath a glitzy Las Vegas. The title refers to the "human kryptonite" played with a wistful talent by William H. Macy. Macy is ideal as luckless Bernie Lootz who's in indentured servitude as director, Wayne Kramer's old-school, but very polished film opens.

Bernie has been working off gambling debts at the conservative casino called Shangra-La by using his presence as a way to prevent players on the gaming floor from winning big. The smooth leering of the camera work from the outset accentuates Bernie's negative aura where being at the craps table or gently touching the roulette wheel kills good luck.

This important, quiet employee starts to shake up things at the Shangra-La when he meets a cocktail waitress with damaged goods, Natalie, acted with a heart of gold by Maria Bello. They quickly become smitten with each other and their romance feeds rapturously off the unfortunate condition of their characters with wit and feeling.

Yet, the casino's owner, Shelly Kaplow, a fiery, though mildly vulnerable Alec Baldwin, is fixated on using the lapdog Bernie to keep the house in control while he deals with illegal activities. The screenplay by Kramer and Frank Hannah sublimates things with the unexpected arrival of two newlyweds, Bernie's son (Shawn Hatosy) and his comely wife (Estella Warren) whose about to have a baby.

Kramer cleverly stages a series of scenes of the gaming pastime that draws so many to tables and slot machines, by changing the pace from still photography to fast motion. The jazz score mostly has a dour tone to it and some solid gold tunes on the soundtrack which suit the unlikely, ingratiating relationship of Bernie and Natalie. The Cooler at times is a shocking drama. Still it has the odds in its favor because of the effortless Macy, the bold Bello, and a riveting, imposing Baldwin.

The Cooler

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