Tuesday, March 24, 2009
More underrated classics...
The Cooler - Dir. Wayne Kramer (2003)
I'll never forget the first time I heard about this movie. I saw a late night film review program that mentioned this film and from the get-go it intrigued me. I've always been fascinated by the "american dream" mentality that surrounds Las Vegas. As much as I personally love the city, it's history fascinates me tenfold. Films like The Cooler, are metaphors to me for the conditioning and destruction of the human spirit and the american dream. In Bugsy, we had a gangster starving for something more and opted to create a mecca of entertainment for adults...it killed him. In Casino, we have low level gangsters being given the keys to the palace to do as they please! It killed them too. The Cooler isn't quite as catastrophic per say, but the film is a wonderful practice and testament to the spirit of Las Vegas' broken road plague that's continued since it's inception. Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is an employee at the Shangri-La Casino. The last of the mob run "old school" casinos in Las Vegas. The casino is run by an old gangster named Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin). Like the traditional gambling superstitions, Shelly has Bernie working for the casino as a "Cooler". Believing that his bad luck is contagious, Bernie actually shows the ability to make good luck go sour. Crap tables, Slot Machines, Roulette, Blackjack, anything and everything goes bust at the very second of his presence. It seems like a very good arrangement, until Bernie meets casino waitress Natalie Belisario (Maria Bello). Bernie soon falls in love with Natalie and his luck finally starts to change. He doesn't seem to have the effect he had on people and Shelly plans to put a stop to it. Director Wayne Kramer; with only 5 movies under his direction belt, has a really distinct style that manages to bring the beauty and colors of Las Vegas with an unsettling gritty undertone. This film opened my eyes to Kramer's stunning visual techniques and has kept me interested with most of his films so far. The Cooler is a great testament to the idea that we all eventually learn, which is that all good things must come to an end. It manages to bring out a strikingly beautiful romance out of the most unusual circumstances, and it's absolutely sincere in the best way possible. It's also a testament to the true value of friendship; and with a superb supporting cast with greats like Paul Sorvino, Ron Livingston, and screen veteran Arthur J Nascarella, it still baffles me why no one has seen and loves this. That's why it's on my list of underrated classics.
Trailer: The Cooler