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If you have seen the trailer for The Cooler, you might be thinking that this film is a quirky little romantic comedy. Well, it is a quirky little romantic comedy but it is also a violent mafia movie. The Cooler doesn't really know what it wants to be. It tells the story of a geeky guy (William H. Macy) who has been a loser all his life. Not only is he a total loser but he just takes it and takes it and never fights back. His only redeeming quality, if you can call it that, is that he has a strange power, which could have come right out of an X-Files episode. Macy can transfer his loser-ness to everyone around him. He works for a casino and hangs around gamblers who are on winning streaks and suddenly they begin to lose. He is a Cooler. Macy goes way back with the manager of the casino (Alec Baldwin). They used to run scams together but eventually, Macy owed Baldwin a bunch of money and Baldwin broke Macy's kneecap. Baldwin does things the old fashioned way, from settling with people who owe him money to running the casino. But life in Vegas has passed Baldwin by, and the owners of the casino have brought in a young hotshot (Ron Livingston) to jazz up the place. Macy is sleepwalking through his life until he becomes involved with a waitress (Maria Bello) at the casino. Suddenly, Macy's whole life changes and so do his superpowers. He still imbues the people around him with his aura but now it's an aura of good luck. Needless to say, Baldwin isn't happy about the change.
That's the basic plot which you can get from the trailer. I won't say more but there's a lot they don't show. What makes The Cooler worth watching is the cast. William H. Macy, a.k.a. the busiest man in Hollywood has made his face very familiar to movie audiences (Seabiscuit, State and Main, Magnolia etc.). He specializes in playing dweeby characters who never get the girl. So, it is nice to see him get the girl in The Cooler. The girl is played by Maria Bello who is awfully good but for some reason hardly ever makes a movie. She is still best known for her role as one of Carter's early girlfriends on ER. Macy and Bello have a good chemistry together and make their onscreen relationship very believable. Alec Baldwin has been rebuilding his career nicely with character roles in movies like Pearl Harbor and Along Came Polly. His role in The Cooler is one that he can really get his teeth into and he was just rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The other standout in The Cooler is Ron Livingstone playing the man who wants to replace Baldwin. I like him a lot. He had a nice role in Band of Brothers and then was very good as Carrie's boyfriend-du-jour on Sex in the City. Also watch out for Paul Sorvino (What ever happened to Mira Sorvino?) as the lounge singer and Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors) as the bartender.
The Cooler wasn't quite what I expected. I was a bit shocked at the serious side of the movie. This isn't Kill Bill but there's quite a bit of icky violence, such as kneecapping people who haven't paid their gambling debts. The Cooler keeps zig zagging back and forth from the Macy/Bello quirky love story to the Godfather-esque casino story. It doesn't do that good a job of making the transitions. But it's still worth seeing.