Blu-Ray Review: The Cooler

Whilst leads perennially hog the limelight, it’s supporting actors who are often likely to steal the show. Hollywood is hardly meritocratic. The ‘A’ List has as much to do with looks as it does talent or ability. Today, with the resurgence of TV and the advent of streaming, bit players like Walton Goggins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Allison Janney, Carrie Coon and Michael Peña find themselves with far more opportunities. However, despite working through leaner times, William H. Macy is up there with the best character actors. One of his rare leading roles is in The Cooler.

Luckless Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is a ‘cooler’. He uses his misfortune to earn a living working at the Shangri-La casino, transferring his bad luck to other punters; ensuring the house always wins. In a few days his debt will be repaid to Shelly (Alec Baldwin), the owner of the joint, and then he’s skedaddling. However, when a cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) reciprocates his feelings Bernie’s luck seems to have finally changed.

The Cooler is a drama which is set during the end of an era in Las Vegas. The traditional mob-backed casinos were dying out only to be replaced by more legitimate and soulless big businesses. Wayne Kramer imbues his film with an aura of dilapidation and degradation. The fetid stench of the neon Strip is encapsulated in the hangdog performance of Macy. He wears a suit of decay. Baldwin also impresses as a leopard unwilling to change his spots. Holding his ground whilst the hyenas circle.

The Cooler feels like a suicide note to the tacky facade of Sin City. It’s easy to relate to Macy’s Bernie. A man who went off the tracks but is desperately trying to put his life back together. Despite his best endeavours, nothing ever seems to go right for him. It’s a beautifully made film resplendent with powerful performances and elegantly cinematography. The new feature length ‘making-of’ documentary included with the package is also an absolute treat.

Special features:

  • Lady Luck: The Making of The Cooler, a feature length (100 min) documentary on the making of the film, featuring director and writer Wayne Kramer, writer Frank Hannah, actors Alec Baldwin, Arthur Nascarella and Shawn Hatosy, producers Michael A. Pierce and Elliot Lewis Rosenblatt, composer Mark Isham and costume designer Kristin M. Burke.
  • Limited edition booklet: includes ‘In the Shadow of Negativity’ by director Wayne Kramer and ‘Heaven and Hell: The Cooler and Hollywood’s Vegas’ by Scott Harrison.
  • Commentary with director Wayne Kramer and composer Mark Isham
  • Commentary with director Wayne Kramer and cinematographer Jim Whitaker
  • Deleted scenes (SD)
  • Anatomy of a Scene featurette (SD)
  • Storyboard comparisons (SD)
  • Trailer (SD)

The Cooler is released on Dual Format DVD & Blu-ray by 101Films on their Black Label on 24 December.

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