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The Cooler
2003 - R - 103 Mins.
Director: Wayne Kramer
Producer: Sean Furst, Michael Pierce
Written By: Wayne Kramer, Frank Hannah
Starring: William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino
Review by: Joe Rickey
There are some old standbys in Hollywood when it comes to plot formulas. Formulas Hollywood is perfectly comfortable with exploiting again and again until they can no longer think up any new twist with regards to the formula in question. In this way they are not forced into coming up with totally original storylines. Hollywood would much rather let the more daring independent filmmakers out there do that so they can rip off the once new material later on.

The Cooler stars William H. Macy as a man who is deemed “The Cooler” for his unknown ability to stop a gambler’s winning streak at the drop of a hat. It is not long before he gets a reversal of fortune and now his presence seems to guarantee winning. Not liking this development, the casino owner sets out to harm the man he once counted on. The Cooler utilizes the age-old theme of a rags to riches tale to frame its noir styled story of redemption and revenge. It does so in an effective manner helped greatly by a stellar performance by lead William H. Macy, who made a name for himself with Fargo and has never looked back, consistently giving impressive performances.

What makes The Cooler a success is its ability to blend different styles of filmmaking together to create a uniquely entertaining picture. First off, there is the feeling of an old-fashioned noir film centered on the hobby of gambling and the addictive nature of it. The rather bleak look given to certain appropriate scenes fits the noir feel. The film also sees fit to include an equally noir-like romance subplot that occasionally overtakes the film and becomes the center point to what occurs. Thankfully though, the film remembers in enough time to return to what is the original focus of the film without one getting the feeling that those involved even forgot what type of film they were creating.

More attention must be given to the romantic subplot. It is subtly effective in that it resists the temptation to become overly sentimental. Many films unfortunately succumb to the aforementioned temptation. The Cooler, to its benefit, does anything but that. The film also gives time to develop various other less important but still interesting ideas. They involve various more seedy denizens of the world in which The Cooler exists.

As the lead, William H. Macy gives a performance that elicits from the start the viewers’ attention. He has this quality about him that demands to be watched. Simply, he has much screen presence despite being anything but physically imposing. He gives a great effort always and the viewer is rewarded for his time and effort.

In a supporting role, Alec Baldwin is perfectly threatening and otherwise convincing as the rather psychotic mobster after Macy’s character. Baldwin certainly has the talent to become a leading man but he has almost disappeared from mainstream cinema. It’s about time that he returns.

Overall, The Cooler is a successful mixture of an old-fashioned romance with a distinctly noir twist and a proper telling the ever more common rags to riches storytelling formula.

Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

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