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Movie Review: The Cooler

Story: Can a film about losers, con artists, thugs, ne'er do-wells and has-beens be entertaining? Absolutely! Can I recommend it? With qualifications, I certainly can.

Promising first time director Wayne Kramer from a story by Kramer and Frank Hannah successfully introduce us to Bernie Lootz, The Cooler. A guy whose personal luck is so bad he can be contagious to folks on a winning streak at the tables in Las Vegas. He is employed by Shelley, a Las Vegas boss of the old type casino to be The Cooler while also repaying his large gambling debt.

Ahh - but can the forceful power of redemptive love change Bernie's luck? You can bet on it! Bernie gets lucky in every way when he meets Natalie, a cocktail waitress with a dark past of her own.

If you have a soft spot in your heart like me for the old time, soon to be gone Las Vegas, that was filled with real gamblers, not families on vacation with their children (don't get me started on this one) check out this film.

Acting: The three stars all nail their respective roles. William H. Macy is perfect as the Cooler. His sad sack face, body language and losing demeanor make you want to cross the street when this guy comes your way. Maria Bello (TV's ER) is terrific as Natalie, the love interest. Alec Baldwin is always best as a beefy, gravel-ly voiced, tough guy. He does not disappoiint as Shelley, the boss.

Predilection: I like dark tales but have little patience or sympathy for gamblers.

Critters: A cat.

Food: Not much food but plenty of alcohol as the beverage of choice.

Visual Art: Some tacky motel art.

Blatant Product Placement: Every well known Vegas Casino and booze company.

Soundtrack: Lots of 40's and 50's swing and crooning tunes.

Opening Titles: Simple overview of Las Vegas. But stay for the closing credits for a great montage of demolished, imploding old Vegas hotels.

Theater Audience: Considering it was the first winter storm in NYC there were still enough hearty people for a few poker games.

Sappy Factor: 2- The ending was a little sappy for my tastes.

Squirm Scale: The level of violence gets a 3 on the Lobo squirm scale. The old fashioned type of violence with fist on flesh and the use of the old sledgehammer to get one's point across. Ouch! Also seeing William H. Macy naked leaves an image permanently seared into one's brain.

Predictability Level: Moderate. The ironic ending was a little hard to take -- but still fun.

Tissue Usage: Not for me, but my sappy movie buddy used a tissue.

Oscar Worthy: Possibly - Alec Baldwin has already won an award for his role as Shelley.

Nit Picking: Fear of the sledgehammer on my newly operated left knee will keep me from any nit picking about this film.

Big Screen or Rental: Small screen would probably have the same effect. For some other films that have Las Vegas as their location try: Electric Horseman, Casino, Leaving Las Vegas, Ocean's Eleven. Viva Las Vegas, The Godfather, Part 2, Showgirls and of course you can catch Las Vegas every week on TV's CSI.

Length: Under two hours.