Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director and composer commentary;
Director and cinematographer commentary; Documentary: Anatomy
of a Scene; Theatrical trailer; Isolated music and effects. Region
BY HIS own admission, William H Macy has played a lot of losers
- so much so that he jokingly confesses to having put a
moratorium on that type of role for himself.
Hence, when he was offered the part of Bernie Lootz, in the outstanding
independent flick, The Cooler, he viewed it as an opportunity
to take the character of the loser to operatic heights
and swiftly accepted the challenge.
The result is an absolute gem of a movie, which marks one of
the safest bets in town for anyone who enjoys their film-making
to be a little quirky.
As the luckless gambler in question, Macy turns in one of his
most engaging performances yet, as a man whose misfortune is so
contagious, he brings bad luck to anyone he comes into contact
Hence, he is walking Kryptonite to sleazy casino
owner, Shelly Caplow (Alec Baldwin), who employs Lootz as a cooler,
to put an end to the hottest of winning streaks, and who will
do anything to keep him in place.
But when Lootz meets and finds himself unexpectedly falling in
love with Maria Bellos equally frustrated cocktail waitress,
Natalie, he finds his fortunes suddenly changing for the better
- so much so that Shelly is forced to take extreme measures to
maintain his own investment.
First-time co-writer/director, Wayne Kramer, describes The Cooler
as a darkly comic love story between two people whose faith in
each other helps them to climb out of the most wretched of circumstances.
The ensuing tale makes for a truly engrossing experience, populated
by memorable characters, and twisting and turning in a number
of unexpected ways.
Macy, as ever, is excellent in the central role, expertly capturing
the desperation of his predicament, and sheer surprise at the
way in which his relationship unfolds.
But he is more than matched by Bello, who manages to turn what,
on face value, seems like an unlikely romance, into something
that is both believable and worth rooting for.
Kramer allows their romance to unfold in an honest, warts-and-all
fashion, and the sex scenes between them, while brutally honest,
convince on an emotional level, while containing an intimacy you
might not immediately expect.
As good as the two principles are, however, it is Baldwin who
steals the show, turning in a deservedly Oscar-nominated turn
as Shelly, the despicable, violent and desperate casino owner,
who still manages to portray a twisted sense of loyalty no matter
how low he is prepared to stoop.
The actor creates one of the great anti-heroes of recent screen
memory, clearly revelling in the opportunity to portray someone
as edgy and dangerous as Shelly, whose presence is felt throughout
the movie. It is a genuine return to form for the star, who had
appeared to have lost his way of late.
Kramer deserves acclaim, too, for turning in such a consistently
enjoyable movie, which plays to the strengths of its cast, and
keeps viewers on their toes all the way through to its satisfying
This is very much an actors piece, and one which tips its
hat to Frank Capras Lost Horizon, as well as some of the
classic tough guy roles of the 50s and 60s, while also maintaining
an identity of its own.
It represents a cinematic windfall for anyone who goes to see