The Cooler

dir. Kramer

Opens Fri Dec 19

Fox Tower

The Cooler is a small, unremarkable film that's watchable due to one thing: sex. Specifically, a sex scene between William H. Macy and Maria Bello. Director Wayne Kramer has managed to give audiences something all too rare in films these days--a sexy scene that not only causes the audience to flush, but makes sense as well. The coitus in The Cooler is refreshing, fun, and the tangling of bodies helps elevate the entire endeavor above its somewhat middling quality.

Macy plays Bernie Lootz, a recovering gambling addict who may be the unluckiest sap in the world. He's so unlucky even his proximity to another person can alter their luck, which is why casino boss Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin) sends Bernie around the tables to bring winning streaks to an end.

The twist comes courtesy of a cocktail waitress named Natalie (Bello), who inexplicably falls in love with Bernie's damaged soul. Beaten down by her surroundings, Natalie finds comfort in Bernie, and this relationship is where The Cooler fully succeeds; gentle and natural, their coupling is worthy of an entire film. Unfortunately, director Kramer and co-screenwriter, Frank Hannah, have other matters in mind.

Because of unnecessary plot twists, the film feels cluttered and unfocused, especially as it limps towards a ridiculous climax that nearly undermines the entire picture. The Cooler could have been a sad and sweet romance, but like Las Vegas itself, it has far too many distractions. But at least the sex is great.