‘The Cooler’ Is Underground Vegas
Ever wanted to see the insides of the Vegas casino life or wondered why the house always wins no matter what? According to ‘The Cooler,’ the answers are all in who’s near the cards, not who’s dealing them.
‘The Cooler’ is a love story about the changing fortunes of a winless loser who has made a career in the Shangri-La casino using this bad luck. Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is the Cooler. Lootz’s job is to drift from table to table using his bad karma to cool the lucky streaks of the winning gamblers. Lootz’s position as a Cooler is due to a debt owed to the Shangri-La’s threatening, yet mysterious, manager Shelly (Alec Baldwin). Upon meeting a cocktail waitress named Natalie (Maria Bello), Lootz’s life is turned upside down as they become passionately in love. Lootz’s bad luck karma begins to change into good luck for card players around him. The casino starts to lose large sums of money and Shelly will do whatever it takes to regain Lootz’s bad karma.
Ultimately, Bernie and Natalie are entrapped in a situation of impossible dilemma, one that can only be solved with love, commitment and a bit of luck. To find out how they do this, you have to see the movie yourself.
‘The Cooler’ is strong both in cinematography and in its strength of cast. In addition, ‘The Cooler’ has arguably one of the best jazz soundtracks Hollywood has ever produced. The casino used for shooting has a very nostalgic Vegas feel. The crowd doesn’t depict gambling as a bunch of college kids wasting a weekend trying to get lucky at the table; rather, it depicts high rollers and gamblers as individuals who consider gambling an art.
Every actor plays a very believable part, especially Baldwin. He uses his large screen presence to his advantage, often reminiscent of a WWE wrestler who is pissed off all the time. He shows viewers how much stress and conspiracy a casino deals with daily. What’s key about Baldwin’s acting style is his intensity and passion when acting out a dialogue. In addition to a laid-back demeanor shown through villainous eyes, he is the the ultimate dramatic playboy.
Macy, whose performance in Fargo earned him an Oscar nomination, plays his role exceptionally well. You really start to feel bad for Lootz’s loser life throughout the movie. His character has similar elements to a kid whom everyone picked on regardless of whether or not he deserved it.
Bello, who is best known for her performance on the hit TV drama ‘ER’ and for her role in ‘Coyote Ugly,’ delivers a stellar performance as well. Her portrayal of a Vegas waitresses/aspiring showgirl is true to the stories of the thousands of waiters in Los Angeles who are actually entertainers trying to make it big. Natalie is confident despite moments of feeling lonely. Her attitude is needed to survive the tipping-in-the-cleavage, butt-grabbing male clientele that Las Vegas casinos often attract.
Bello and Macy display one of the most believable and graphic love scenes an R-rated movie can allow. Although the two characters have an obvious age difference, their love for each other is so intense and passionate that you start to realize that age can sometimes just be a number and nothing else. This might be a new trend in Hollywood movies since society sometimes designates personality traits such as humor or confidence as equally sexy as one’s physical features. This type of exchange is generally considered risky in regards to movies; however, it is a risk all too familiar to the production company, Lions Gate Films, who also produced the controversial films ‘Rules of Attraction’ and wango-tango flick ‘Confidence.’
Director Wayne Kramer commented that he was surprised that the MPAA board didn’t initially give the movie a NC-17 rating. ‘The Cooler’ is Kramer’s directorial debut and was influenced by the real-life coolers of the Las Vegas Casinos from the 1950s to 1970s.
‘The Cooler’ has one of the most bizarre endings ever. The movie shows that sometimes you need to believe in fate and throw everything you’ve got on the table because Lady Luck may be around the corner. ‘The Cooler’ is a must-see for those interested in the treacherous, yet exciting, underground world of Las Vegas and the characters whose job it is to help you lose your money.
‘The Cooler’ is in theaters everywhere Dec. 19.