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The Cooler (2003)
 
The unluckiest man in Vegas (William H. Macy) - a guy whose bad luck is contagious - is used by the last of the old time mob run casinos to kill high rollers' action. That is, until he falls in love with a cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) and gets "lady luck," which throws the situation into reverse. Things turn nasty when the casino director (Alec Baldwin) tries to break up the romance.

The Cooler is Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy), and THE COOLER is a love story about the changing fortunes of this down-at-heels loser who has made a career out of spreading his virulent bad luck on the floor of Las Vegas' aging Shangri-La casino. When Bernie falls for a gorgeous cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) his bad luck is thrown into reverse.

"The Cooler" may sound as if it's a dark sitcom, with broad characters and an easy payoff. But the movie, directed by first-timer Wayne Kramer and written by him with Frank Hannah, has a strange way of being broad and twisted at the same time, so that while we surf the surface of the story, unexpected developments are stirring beneath. There's more to the movie than at first it seems, and what happens to Bernie, Natalie and Shelly has a rough but poignant justice.

This is one of Alec Baldwin's best performances, as a character who contains vast contradictions. He can be kind and brutal simultaneously; affection and cruelty are handmaidens.
 
The story's strength is all in the telling; no synopsis will prepare you for the emotional charge that's eventually delivered. And it's unusual to find a screenplay that gives weight to parallel stories; Shelly isn't simply an element in Bernie's life, but is a free-standing character with a dilemma of his own.

There is a crucial scene that takes place on the roof of the casino, and while it is happening, I want you to watch the eyes of the two bodyguards who are standing in the background. They're minor characters, and I don't have any idea what the director told them to do, but what their eyes reflect feels like pain and uneasiness, and it seems absolutely real. Not many movies have foregrounds that can inspire backgrounds like that.
 
THE COOLER is a perceptive look both at the gaming industry done Mafia style and the undercurrent of sleaze that most visitors to the Disneyland-style hotel casino's of Vegas probably never notice. The film contains brief scenes of violence not for the overly squeamish, and sex scenes not for the overly prudish. But by the movie's conclusion and its quirky twist of fortune, American audiences, which generally favor the underdog, have in Lootz a new and unlikely hero.

ILots of good performances. Noir and everything - 8/10
Marks : 8/10
Director Wayne Kramer William H. Macy Bernie Lootz
Writing Frank Hannah Alec Baldwin Shelly Kaplow
Cinematography Jim Whitaker Maria Bello Natalie Belisario
    Paul Sorvino Buddy Stafford
 
 
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