The Cooler review

What is “The Cooler”? It is an ocean of overwrought pathos, pulling the audience under and rendering them apathetic to cinema. It is an attractive ship piloted by able captain William H. Macy but headed toward the craggy rocks of “Also Starring Alec Baldwin.” It is a bigger waste of talent than Daniel Snyder’s Redskins. If these analogies seem strained and clich?d, I blame “The Cooler” (Lions Gate Films) as a negative influence. A potentially moving tale of redemption through selfless love, it becomes bogged down with heavy-handed metaphor and frayed ideas; in shooting for blurbs like “Thought-provoking” and “Fresh and clever!”, it winds up trite as the blurbs themselves.
The title character is Bernie Lootz (Macy), a man whose luck is so bad he earns his living by simply radiating vibes of bad fortune to casino patrons, thereby “cooling” any winning streaks. He is employed, and essentially owned, by Shelly Kaplow (Baldwin, throwing about his weight’s worth in ham), a waning tyrant fighting to keep his old-fashioned casino from the hands of forward thinkers like Ron Livingston (“Office Space”). Lootz, meanwhile, is planning on leaving town and his bleak existence behind, until a beautiful cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) turns his luck around and gives him reason to stay-a canned, trailer-ready plot if ever there was one. Also featured is Shawn Hatosy (“Anywhere but Here”) as Macy’s wayward son.
Occasionally, “Cooler”, like Lootz and his Natalie, has a shot at redemption. There were several scenes that could not fail to merit an empathetic twinge from even the coldest of hearts, and a few that even grabbed a laugh. Macy is at top form playing his usual downtrodden soul, but even he is outshined-no small feat, that-by the radiant Bello in her role as a tough survivor. Ultimately, though, these bright spots cannot salvage the unsalvageable.
Is “Cooler” a poignant romance, a brutally violent drama, or a slick dark comedy? Writer-director Wayne Kramer, still suffering from AFS (Amateur Filmmaking Syndrome), clearly had no idea, and the film loses itself hopelessly in the shuffle of incongruous genres and worn-out techniques. Desperate and generic, “The Cooler” might want to hang out with actual cool movies, but these far more original works wouldn’t even let it sit with them at lunch.

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