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PCR # 199  (Vol. 5, No. 3)  This edition is for the week of January 12--18, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Cooler"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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 by Mike Smith
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Lions Gate Films     
Starring: William H. Macy, Maria Bello and Alec Baldwin
Directed by: Wayne Kramer
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 51 mins

Remember that night in Vegas when you thought you couldn't lose at the blackjack table? You were betting like a madman and cleaning up. Remember that right after the quiet guy with the glass of club soda sat next to you that your luck began to change? Remember how you finally walked away with nothing? You may not have known it at the time, but you were introduced to the cooler.

Bernie Lootz (Macy) is the cooler of the title. A lifetime gambler whose luck has failed him, Bernie now limps his way around the Shangri-La casino, letting his bad luck wash over all around him. Bernie's limp comes courtesy of Shelly Kaplow (Baldwin), owner of the casino. Unable to pay his debts, Bernie and his knee fell into Shelly's bad graces. To work off the debt, Bernie moves from table to table, game to game, sending many a high roller home a much broker man. With a week to go until his debt to Shelly is paid off, Bernie meets Natalie, a hostess at the casino. The two end up together and, as the week goes on, Bernie thinks his luck may be changing. But Bernie, like Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls," soon learns that lady luck "isn't fair, isn't nice."

A small film with an outstanding cast, "The Cooler" is one of those films that usually sneaks under the radar of movie goers this time of year. Macy, who has the sad sack character down pat, does an excellent job portraying the many emotions of Bernie. Bello is fine as the hostess with a past, much of which she reveals during the film's best scenes, her and Macy in bed. The obvious 20 plus year age difference matters not to these two. Like their bodies, their emotions are naked and very visible. However, the performance of the film belongs to Baldwin. As the casino owner who refuses to turn his place into an amusement park, Baldwin finally cements his jump from leading man to great character actor. It's easily his best work since "Glen Gary Glen Ross," and has already earned him a Golden Globe nomination, with a much deserved Academy Award nomination sure to follow at the end of the month. The story is serviceable, though the plot does seem to go off in different directions towards the end. But it is the actors that make the ride enjoyable, no matter the detours. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "The Cooler"  Three stars

This week's movie review of "The Cooler" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.