If you are a young person who’s into gambling and wants to see how things were in casinos just a couple of decades ago, you’ve got to see The Cooler (2003). I am already over 40 and, for as long as I have been legally eligible, I have gambled my extra cash and time in the casinos of Las Vegas. And let me tell you something: nowadays, the Las Vegas scene looks a bit more like Disneyland than anything else. You find fun things for the entire family and the mob influence is nowhere near as overt or ubiquitous as it was in the 70s and 80s.
The movie is a brilliant romantic comedy that revolves around Bernie Lootz, played by William H. Macy. This guy is so unlucky and such a loser that his bad luck rubs on people he stands next to. He needs to pay a debt to a mobster who runs a casino (brilliantly played by Alec Baldwin) and as a result, is at his service. His job is to stand nearby wherever a high roller is on a winning streak and change their luck. This way, the casino keeps profits high and nobody walks away with too much money.
Even though this probably never happened in real life, I couldn’t help but laugh at its similarities to the real gambling world. Just about each and every one of us players has a good luck charm. And if we don’t have one, we still have at least half a dozen superstitious rules that we obey to the letter. There are few gamblers out there who wouldn’t be able to relate to one element or another from this movie. Apart from that, I must admit that the movie has brought back some old memories.
In the olden days, casinos were much drearier than the palaces we have today. If you weren’t drunk enough, you couldn’t help but feel a tension in the air, which was often related to mob influence. There were even places (and I think there are still a few of them today) where one could even be a bit scared of winning too much. Many times I’ve heard about high rolling gamblers ending up somewhere in a ditch.
But enough about that, let’s go back to the plot: Bernie soon meets a cocktail waitress, played by the lovely Maria Bello, who surprisingly falls in love with our hopeless, hapless hero. With a bit of happiness, his luck soon changes to such an extent that even people who play the slots next to him end up winning a pile of cash. Needless to say, the mob boss doesn’t enjoy that and he does everything in his power to break them up and get his bad luck charm back on track. I won’t give any more spoilers, as the movie is too fun to watch and you should definitely give it a go. I also recommend it to old time gamblers who enjoy a blast from the blast.