In order to pay off his gambling debts, Bernie works at a Las Vegas casino where his job is to bring a halt to any extended run of luck being enjoyed by its patrons. He\'s good at this too, but yearns to get out of town for good.
Bernie Lootz, William H. Macy, is The Cooler. He\'s into his final days of working off a 16 year debt to casino manager Shelley Kaplow, Alec Baldwin. Bernie wears his losing aura like a heavy coat. And then he\'s seduced and falls in love with waitress Natalie, Maria Bello. Bernie can\'t believe his luck, he\'suddenly a happy man and his loser\'s mantle fades away. Now it\'s Shelley who isn\'t happy. He\'s being pressured by the owners of the casino to modernise, to make the place more family-friendly. Shelley\'s the old - fashioned type who kneecaps cheats, he likes the old Vegas. He needs Bernie back as a cooler.This is such a beautiful little film, with great performances not just from the Oscar-nominated Baldwin and the ever-terrific Macy, but Maria Bello of ER fame is a revelation. Co-written by the director Wayne Kramer with Frank Hannah it\'s an old-fashioned film in many ways. It\'s a terrific, layered screenplay with fully developed characters whom you come to really care for, and some wonderful dialogue. \'He puts me on a pedestal - sure puts the gutter in perspective\' says Natalie. With such good ingredients in place - script and cast - Kramer then makes the most of the gaudy casino setting and the seedy motel where Bernie finds love. Tautly directed The Cooler grabs you from its opening frames and never lets you go until the end. That\'s rare in the cinema these days.