There are loads of stories and movies centred on Las Vegas, and for good reason. A city that never sleeps, lined with shimmering lights and neon signs, billboards and broken hearts, Las Vegas continues to capture the imaginations of people around the world – as well as film directors. Wayne Kramer’s 2003 creation, The Cooler, shines a spotlight on the more downhearted characters who live in Vegas, with William H. Macy playing the role of Bernie Lootz. Living in a dingy apartment in a run-down motel near the famous Las Vegas Strip, Bernie is what one calls a ‘Cooler’. Contrary to what you might think, the term carries with it a more negative connotation, one pertaining to an utter lack of luck.
The Other Side of Vegas
Bernie fits the word perfectly, being something of a lonely pessimist, who can’t even remember when last he’d had physical contact with a woman. Indebted to the boss of the Shangri-La Casino, one Shelly Kaplow (played by Alec Baldwin), Bernie works at the casino to pay off his massive debts, incurred by means of a gambling addiction. Kaplow has previously ‘cured’ Bernie’s addiction by breaking his kneecap, and helped him pay off some of his debts. Being such an unlucky individual, part of Bernie’s job involves hanging around casino tables where players are on winning streaks, and have some of his ‘unlucky’ rub off on them to see them start losing. Kaplow is a fan of old-fashioned mob tactics, and is disgruntled by the ‘Disneyfication’ of Vegas, preferring instead a more old-school vibe.
At Casino Epoca you won’t find any “coolers”, only cool games! Enjoy hundreds of super-cool online video slot games like Ariana, an underwater adventure, and Jungle Jim El Dorado, a quest of epic proportions.
With just one week left of debts to pay, Bernie starts making arrangements to leave Vegas once and for all, believing a fresh start in a fresh place will surely see his luck and life improve. This, of course, is where things get interesting, as a new cocktail waitress, Natalie, starts working at the casino. As Bernie’s feelings for her start to strengthen, so does his luck! As a result, his presence near casino tables no longer results in players losing, but winning instead. As you can imagine, this doesn’t bode well with the mob boss, Kaplow, who had actually employed Natalie in the first place to seduce Bernie and convince him to stay – which he does! Along with a few extra twists and turns, Bernie’s adult son and his wife arrive in Vegas, and start interfering with the operations at the Shangri-La.
Final Thoughts and Considerations
The Cooler is one of those movies that boasts no gimmicks or flashy slickness. There are no high-speed car chases or thrilling shootouts, no shotgun weddings or the typical hangover humour that audiences have come to expect from films focused on Vegas. Rather, with a fitting soundtrack and brilliantly poignant camera work, The Cooler hones in on the emotional aspects of the varied individuals of Vegas, and how their uniquely intertwined lives play out and affect one another. The characters you will come to meet on this relatively short movie journey (the film spans just 101 minutes) are memorable and well-acted, and sure to leave a lasting impression. While not your typical, star-studded, laugh-a-minute romantic comedy, the film packs enough laughs to keep you happy, and enough romance to make you gushy. There’s nothing quite like a story of the underdog finding happiness, and Macy is pretty good at playing someone completely down and out. Give it a go – you’ll be glad you did.