I've seen my fair share of "loser in Las Vegas" films, and "The Cooler" illuminated no truisms about Vegas that I didn't already know. It brings nothing new to a crowded genre that already includes such films as "Hard Eight," "Atlantic City" and "Swingers."
Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the United States, and part of the conflict in the movie is between the old Vegas, embodied by casino owner Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin), and the new Vegas, embodied by Larry (Ron Livingston). Larry has been brought into the casino to bring things up to speed by accentuating the family atmosphere. Shelly's casino, the Shangri-La, is old-style.
Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is another throwback. He's a cooler, a guy so unlucky that his mere presence drags others down with him. If somebody is on a roll, they call in Bernie to ruin things. Bernie doesn't have to do anything, just be himself. He's a loser and he knows it. Everything is going fine until Bernie meets Natalie (Maria Bello) and they fall in love.
Once again, the filmmakers perpetuate the myth that hot chicks like Maria Bello are just waiting around for old, schlubby guys like William H. Macy with good hearts. Really, it doesn't matter how big a loser you are (and Bernie is the biggest): If you have a good heart you can bed Maria Bello. The filmmakers know enough to show Bello completely naked, because then the losers in the audience can fantasize about bedding Maria Bello and in the process forget that they actually have a better shot at bedding a drunk William H. Macy.
All these characters are completely familiar: the lovable loser, the slut with the heart of gold, the mobster who lacks just enough introspection to always do the wrong thing. With all these predictable characters roaming about this familiar landscape, it should come as no shock that the story goes exactly where you'd expect it to.
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