REVIEW: The Cooler

The Cooler is based around a clever premise: casinos hire coolers, men who can change the luck of others just by being present, to cool off gamblers on lucky streaks. Bernie (William Macy) is the favorite cooler of old-school casino boss Shelly (Alec Baldwin in one of his trademark intense asshole roles that is always so much fun to watch). Shelly also once busted Bernie's kneecap with a baseball hat, one of the more telling symptoms of a love-hate relationship with one's employer.
The events that set the movie in motion: Shelly's partners apply some heat in the form of a consultant played by Ron Livingston who wants Shelly to go "Disneyland" with his casino, the Shangri-La. Meanwhile, Bernie gets lucky with cocktail waitress Natalie and falls in love, and suddenly the cooler's luck reverses which is good for Bernie, bad for business. And then Bernie's son shows up out of the blue looking for money for him and his floozy girlfriend.
The movie treats Las Vegas with a smirk. Bernie's cooling powers are used in the service of a whimsical tale centered around mythical Vegas archetypes, from the ruthless casino boss to the cocktail waitress/whore with a heart of gold to this new type called the cooler. It offers no searing insights into humanity, just a few simple lessons on luck, life, and love. But it has a whole lot of fun doing so. It's the type of lesson you learn when the blackjack beats your pair of face cards with a 6-4-2-7-2 draw: luck can be a cruel mistress, but the drinks are free, the buffets are cheap, and the neon lights are flashing, so we're having fun, right?
3 out of 4 stars.