The Cooler.

Starring William Macy and Alec Baldwin. Directed by Wayne Kramer.
Running Time: 101 mins.

The Cooler is one of those small films that are described as 'sleepers'. The distributors don't have such great faith in their box-office potential - and then the public finds that they like the film and it then receives wider release. The Cooler eventually gained an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Alec Baldwin.

Actually, the one who deserves Oscar nominations is William H. Macy, whose versatile talents have enhanced a great number of films, most memorably, Fargo, as well as his turn as the radio commentator in Seabiscuit.

Here, he is cast as a cooler, someone employed by a casino to put off gamblers at the tables who might be on winning streaks. He is supposed to be a loser who can influence others to be losers. This part suits Macy's screen persona very well. He can do lugubrious very easily. The trouble is that in his life in Las Vegas, he is also a loser. When one of the employees, Maria Bello, comes on to him, he is transformed and his life and his work are in crisis. The Cooler offers a detailed look at the complex life of a simple man.

It also offers a detailed look at life behind the Las Vegas glitter, the world of Shelley (Alec Baldwin) who is completely absorbed in running his casino and who will take no opposition to what he wants, a violent and wilful man. Baldwin has proven in recent years that he can do excellent cameo roles and create striking characters (like his boss in Along Came Polly).

The glitzy world of gambling is a bizarre world that so many people allow themselves to get lost in.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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