Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Cooler (2003) Wayne Kramer

The Cooler is one of those films hardly anyone remembers or talks about just over 10 years after its release, although at the time it was nominated for (and in a few cases, won) several awards. The strength of the film lies in its performances. William H. Macy plays Bernie, a guy who works in a casino owned by a mobster named Shelly (Alec Baldwin). Bernie is a “cooler,” a guy so unlucky that his mere presence at a crap table, slot machine, card game - you name it - causes the person who’s on a winning streak to collapse in immediate and utter defeat. Bernie is a loser, but he’s a well-paid loser. One day his luck starts to change when he gets a casino waitress named Natalie (Maria Bello) out of a jam. 

The Cooler loses its cool when the Frank Hannah/Wayne Kramer screenplay hits us over the head a little too hard with too many examples both of Bernie’s hard luck and his change of luck. A subplot involving Bernie’s son and the son’s pregnant girlfriend doesn’t really work because we know they’re just there as a plot device that helps bring the film to its turning point. Those instances aren’t really deal breakers, at least not until we get to the final slow-motion gambling scenes and a completely implausible ending. Still, the performances - including a couple of short scenes with Paul Sorvino - make The Cooler worth a look. 


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