The unluckiest man in Vegas - a guy whose bad luck is contagious - is used by the last of the old time mob run casinos to kill high rollers' action. That is, until he falls in love with a cocktail waitress and gets "lady luck," which throws the situation into reverse. Things turn nasty when the casino director tries to break up the romance. Written by
The casinos demolished in the closing credits are: the Aladdin, the Sands, the Landmark, and the Dunes. The Dunes was bought and demolished in a giant pyrotechnic display begun by Steve Wynn when he fired a mock cannon from Treasure Island; in part he did it to insult The Dunes' former owners; the property became the Bellagio; Wynn has since sold all of his Mirage Resorts properties to MGM Grand and bought the Desert Inn, which he demolished to build Wynn Las Vegas. The Sands was where the Rat Pack held The Summit, a series of shows they did for fun while filming the original Ocean's 11 (1960), an epoch that helped to define the Las Vegas that Shelly Kaplow mourns in The Cooler; The Venetian now stands on the Sands' lot. The Aladdin was rebuilt, but has performed poorly due to its similarity to all the other megacasinos, overbuilding in Vegas, and the slower economy. The Landmark's demolition can be seen in Mars Attacks! (1996); the property was used to expand parking for the Las Vegas Convention Center. See more »
Natalie's hair changes several times between shots when telling Bernie about her 'Little Joe.' See more »
Where's Bernie, they're killing us. Yeah, we need him right away.
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A good little low-key film whose weaknesses in the writing are covered up by great delivery from all involved
Bernie Lootz is a 'cooler' a man whose very presence on a casino floor turns peoples' luck to cr*p and stops any winning streak dead in its tracks.
As such he is a very valuable asset to casino boss Shelly Kaplow, himself having enough problems of his own trying to stop his old school casino being revamped to the point of losing it's sense of class. However, with Bernie looking to leave, Shelly is eager to make him stay not helped by waitress Natalie falling in love with Bernie and turning his jinx into universal good fortune. With the casino dropping a million plus in one day, Shelly takes action to protect what is his.
As with many viewers I suspect, I was attracted to this film by the cast and the fact that it received a few nods from the Oscars (despite being showy enough to win). The plot is based on the old casino idea of coolers being those who bring bad luck to the tables but it very much needs you to buy into the idea of luck to really enjoy this fable of lady luck unless you get into it, it'll feel rather forced and silly at times. However the film helped me to overcome this by being very lowkey and downbeat very much like Bernie himself the film is dog eared and lovable, not a great thing but one that is easy to get into. The film uses Las Vegas really well and it is the Las Vegas I believe in downbeat, cruel and plastic, it is much better than the fun, breezy and slick Vegas that we are sold in CSI or in Oceans 11. The mix of romance, comedy and violence works very well at points it was very touching, at others quite funny and then others unrelentingly brutal and downbeat. It isn't perfect of course and the writing is where the problems lie; the story did rely on the audience buying into it and at times the dialogue comes very close to corn (but just misses). The only time I felt really let down by it was the ending, which, although fitting with the spirit of the film, missed a great chance to be dark, depressing and beautiful all at the same time.
Despite the odd weakness in the material, these are almost totally covered by a superb collection of performances. Macy may be aware of typecasting but so what if he keeps getting roles like this, probably one of his best performances since Fargo. He is typically the little man who we cannot help but root for and Macy does well never to let Bernie become pathetic to the point that he loses the audience. Bello also does pretty well and even convincingly falls for Bernie even though the film offers her very little opportunity to show a real development of love there. She is pretty but not to the point where she is an unconvincing waitress and her dashed hopes are well worn by her. However the one performance that dominated the film was Baldwin who does very well in delivering a role that could easily have become caricature. At turns he is amusing, brutal, friendly and tragic and Baldwin does almost all of these with minor touches at one point I was impressed by how well he controlled his face (eyes in particular) to convince me that here was a man who was totally lost. A great performance and one that definitely deserved his Oscar nod. Support is just as good from several well known faces; Sorvino is given little more than a cameo but the one scene he shares with Baldwin is fantastic and, unlike some of his other roles, I never saw Paulie once his Buddy was too tragic for that ghost to linger here. Hatosy is OK even if his part of the story is not as good as the others and Nascarella will be a well known face to many due to many roles in films for Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and a few other big films.
Overall this is not a perfect film and it needs you to really buy into its fantasy world to really enjoy it but it works well and turned out to be an enjoyable, low key and atmospheric little love story that was never brilliant at any one thing but managed to be touching, brutal, funny and, ultimately, quite satisfying even if my darker side wanted an ending with more punch.
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