Prayer Focus

The Cooler

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for strong sexuality, violence, language and some drug use
Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime Fantasy Romance Drama
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 16, 2004
Copyright, Lionsgate click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Lionsgate Entertainment Copyright, Lion's Gate Entertainment Copyright, Lion's Gate Entertainment

Starring: William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino | Directed by: Wayne Kramer | Produced by: Sean Furst, Michael A. Pierce | Distributor: Lion’s Gate Entertainment

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is the unluckiest guy in Vegas. From a failed marriage to an estranged son to a lost cat, everything Bernie touches turns bad.

Once upon a time, Bernie was a troubled gambler with markers all over town, including a big tab at the Shangri-La casino run by his friend Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin). When Bernie couldn’t pay the debts, Shelly saved Bernie’s life by covering them, but then disabled Bernie by kneecapping him, causing Bernie to walk with a limp. Also, Shelly made Bernie work the floor of the Shangri-La, allowing Bernie the chance to pay off his debt day by day over the course of many years.

Shelly recognized that Bernie’s luck was so bad it was contagious, so Shelly made Bernie the casino’s “cooler.” All it takes is Bernie’s mere presence at a hot table to kill the winning streak. If he should so much as touch the dice, you’re looking at the Las Vegas version of a nuclear winter.

As THE COOLER opens, Bernie is just days away from fulfilling his debt to Shelly when he meets Natalie (Maria Bello), a new cocktail waitress at the Shangri-La. Natalie sweeps Bernie off his feet, and after a night of raucous sex, Bernie is in love.

When Natalie starts to love him back, Bernie’s luck starts to change. Feeling good for the first time in years, Bernie can’t wait to leave Las Vegas, with the woman of his dreams and move on with his life.

Unfortunately for Bernie, Shelly can’t afford to lose him, especially since the partners of the Shangri-La have sent in Larry Sokolov (Ron Livingston) to shake up the place. Just itching to take over, Sokolov sees the hidden potential in the Shangri-La. He envisions a new, slick palace with three floors of gaming, an entertainment center and a roller coaster—everything Shelly’s beloved “old school” casino is not.

Sokolov’s new plan would leave no place for Buddy (Paul Sorvino), the aging singer and lead attraction of the Shangri-La’s Paradise Lounge. Instead, Sokolov would like to hire Johnny Capella (Joey Fatone), Vegas’ answer to Harry Connick Jr. and one of the hottest acts on the strip.

Under increasing pressure from Sokolov and fearful that his beloved hotel and his old ways are about to be history, Shelly becomes very desperate, willing to do anything to hang on to Bernie and his cooling abilities, which have recently become shaky, ever since Natalie opened her heart to Bernie. Due to Bernie’s new change of luck, the Shangri-La loses close to a million dollars in one night.

Unfortunately, Bernie is brought back to Earth when his estranged son Mikey (Shawn Hatosy) rolls into town with his pregnant girlfriend Charlene (Estella Warren). Mikey cons his father into giving him $3,000. Instead of using the money towards the baby, Mikey uses it by gambling at the Shangri-La, but is caught with loaded dice at Shelly’s craps table. Everyone knows that cheating at Shelley Kaplow’s casino can bring deadly consequences. With Mikey’s life on the line, Shelly knows he has Bernie right back where he wants him, under his control.

With Mikey in his grip, Shelly knows he has Bernie right back where he wants him, under his control. Thinking he’ll never get out of Vegas, Bernie asks Natalie to leave him for a better life. Natalie refuses to be rejected, and her actions lead to a violent confrontation with Shelly, who forces Natalie to break up with Bernie.

Ultimately, Bernie and Natalie find themselves in an impossible dilemma, one that can only be solved with love, commitment and a little bit of luck.”

Viewer Comments
Negative—Want to warn you that this independent film that has three Golden Globe nominees, including one for William H. Macy (Seabiscuit, Door-to-Door) should be rated X. The sexual scenes are so explicit I was shocked and had to leave. It would have been unconscionable to stay any longer. …completely explicit sex scenes that are virtually pornography, although they were not meant as pornography, but as expression of William H. Macy’s character, Bernie. I cannot emphasize enough how utterly immoral this movie is, and how disappointed I am that Macy chose to act in it. He has done such wonderful work till this movie. Violence: Heavy | Profanity: Extreme | Sex/Nudity: Extreme.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4]
Negative—The Cooler video sits in my den ready to view, but after reading your view from a Christian perspective, I’m taking it back to Blockbuster not viewed.
Marilyn McDaniel
Neutral—To be honest, I was fairly disappointed with The Cooler. I had heard that this film was original, even groundbreaking, but I found myself bored and uncomfortable. While I applaud the gritty realism of a film like Leaving Las Vegas, the offensive content of this film seems like a rehashing of the dirt from films like the aforementioned and others like Casino. The plot hinged on (sorry William H. Macy) a completely unrealistic love story and the film basically consisted of Alec Baldwin acting mean in a dark room, cut to graphic cheap motel sex scene, Alec Baldwin acting slick in a lounge, cut back to the motel. The acting is fine, but it doesn’t generate enough sympathy to make the finale inspirational, just welcome so you can get out of a dark theater and a dark, dull, depressing film.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
Doug Coleman, age 22
Movie Critics
…it’s impossible to like a film this nasty and offensive… End-of-the-road Vegas pictures are a dime a dozen, but this desperate contrivance is pretty low on the totem pole.
Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
…It’s nearly impossible to watch The Cooler and not be bowled over by Alec Baldwin
Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic
…filled with objectionable material: sex, brutality, language and drugs…
Edith Martin, Preview Family Movie and TV Review