The Cooler (2003)

cooler_ver2Ultimately, I love the underdog story, I love to see the little guy accomplish and conquer their goals and beat the odds, and “The Cooler” is the ultimate under dog story. William H. Macy, an actor who I always enjoy watching plays Bernie Lootz an always down on his luck sad sack who works everyday as a “Cooler” in the Las Vegas casinos under Shelly Kaplow’s dollar. His bad luck is a surefire repellent for winning and though he hates the job, he does it because he’s good at it. That is until he meets Natalie, a waitress at the casino. The two begin to hit it off and quickly his luck begins improving, and money begins getting lost.

“The Cooler” will put such a smile on your face as it did me, not only because of its sleek direction from Wayne Kramer who pulls off a very “Swingers” motif with sleek, but murky feelings for the casino underworld. At the helm of it all is brutal boss named Shelly who refuses to believe his cash cow is losing his mojo. What emerges here is a tale of two men actually, one who has everything and has nothing, and a man who has nothing, but wants everything, so the story written by Frank Hannah and Wayne Kramer makes you wonder who the real loser is. You also wonder: Bernie’s luck is looking up because he’s met Natalie, or because his outlook after he meets her. This is more a story of fate and coming of age, and the important things in life rather than luck of the draw. There are some truly good performances here that fuel the story of a true underdog including Baldwin who earned a best supporting actor nod during the Oscars and he deserved it. He’s great here as the villain Shelly Kaplow whose become out of touch with the new generation of casino owners and is being pressed by a younger more imposing owner Larry Sokolov (Ron Livingston).

Shelley relies on old factory tricks to get the gold, and when Bernie doesn’t suddenly need him anymore, he’s not sure if he should kill him or leave him alone. Macy is great here as the loser. Macy is almost always known for playing an average loser, but he’s good here, and the chemistry between he and the gorgeous Bello is priceless. Take for example the sex scene between Bello and Macy which is not only very sweet and tender, but very funny as well as Macy explores her body while she laughs and guides him. It’s the best scene of the movie. The story brings to mind the question of who the real loser is of the two, Macy or Baldwin. Paul Sorvino has a small role here as a lounge singer, an older drug addicted lounge singer who makes Baldwin question his true life towards the last half of the movie, and purely this is a funny, crowd-pleasing, and sweet film about the dog getting his day. The chemistry between Bello and Macy is priceless, and Baldwin is a joy to watch. With great performances from Bello, Macy, and Baldwin, “The Cooler” is a sweet underdog romantic dramedy whose underdog hero ultimately gets the hot girl, and Kramer’s film is simple but sweet.