Lisa Schwarzbaum
November 26, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Cooler

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
101 minutes
Limited Release Date
11/26/03
Wide Release Date
12/19/03
performer
Alec Baldwin, William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Joey Fatone, Shawn Hatosy, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino, Estella Warren
director
Wayne Kramer (Director)
author
Wayne Kramer (Director)
genre
Comedy

We gave it a B

Like a long night at a Las Vegas casino, The Cooler is a lot of fun early in the evening, when the Rat Pack ambiance is novel, but gets bleary by 4 a.m. in the story. And like a lot of bettors and developing screenwriters, Wayne Kramer — who cowrote the script with Frank Hannah and also makes his personable feature directorial debut — believes in magical Lady Luck as a market force with more insistent conviction than the average lottery-ticket buyer. Still, Kramer’s sexy, redolently seedy-looking indie is a swell, swingin’, low-stakes card game.

And William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin make a couple of terrific headliners. Macy plays Bernie Lootz, whose name telegraphs his fate: Bernie’s a sad sack whose loser vibe is so powerfully contagious that he’s employed to”cool” the luck of hot-streak players at the second-tier casino where he has run up a huge gambling debt. Baldwin is Shelly Kaplow, Bernie’s employer and friend (never mind that he once kneecapped the yutz), in a great, beefy, ice-cube-rattling performance as a so-so-fella. Bernie’s luck changes — to Shelly’s revenue-counting dismay — when he falls in love with a cocktail waitress (Maria Bello); Macy’s repertoire of lovable-lame roles expands when he gets graphically lucky in the sack. Then he becomes the Warmer.

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