Both the credit and the blame go to writer-director Robert Celestino. His cornball plot shouldn't work, but his direction, especially with actors, does. Chazz Palminteri (Celestino's executive producer) is the title guy, a gambling stiff with an amazing ability to cheat crap games. He'll belly up to a table, pull some David Blaine-like moves to drop tainted dice into a game, and make a fortune. Unfortunately, Atlantic City security has his number, and private games are too small for his ambitions.
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Although the incomparable character actor William H. Macy is versatile enough to be as brilliant playing a fast-talking race track announcer in "Seabiscuit" as he is playing an ego-inflated ratings expert on the short-lived sitcom "Sports Night" or a goofball superhero in "Mystery Men," he's best known for bringing depth and bittersweet irony to sad sacks and milksops.
With his roles in "Fargo," "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "Panic," among other films, Macy has always made a lasting impression, but the actor has recently said he's done with good-hearted losers, and if that's the case, he's sure going out on a virtuoso high note with "The Cooler."
Yes, nobody plays a rube as well as William H. Macy, and Bernie Lootz is a rube of epic proportions -- a guy with such an aura of ill fortune that he makes his living at a declining Las Vegas casino, bringing bad luck to hot-streak gamblers. The film's amusing and energizing opening is a tracking shot that follows Bernie simply walking through a forest of slot machines and a cluster of craps, cards and roulette tables as everybody in his wake -- everybody -- starts losing, and losing big.
Continue reading: The Cooler Review