Bernie Lootz (William Macy) is a born loser, a guy so unlucky that his presence makes others around him lose. Bernie works as a cooler, someone called in to cool down the winning streaks of gamblers at the Shangri-La Casino. He is doing this to pay off an old gambling debt to the casino manager, Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin). It will be paid off in just seven days, and Bernie can’t wait to leave Las Vegas forever. But Shelly is working hard to keep Bernie, his most valuable asset, in the casino. When Bernie meets and falls in love with a casino cocktail waitress, Natalie (Maria Bello), his luck turns and people everywhere begin winning money. This change also uncovers Bernie’s estranged son and unborn grandchild. In a series of plot tangles, the people in Bernie’s life challenge his ability to escape sin city and start a new, wholesome life elsewhere.
The interesting plot concept is quickly overshadowed by graphic portrayals of the ugly life in Vegas: gambling, crime, violence and promiscuity. On a positive note, the story does make a statement on the value of taking a gamble, whether it be for money or love. And it shows that sin leads to destruction and that the only people who survive are those who get out of town. The sex scenes, though not glamorizing, are extremely explicit. The crowd reaction in the theater proved that several scenes were cheaply placed for shock value and that the movie probably deserved an NC-17 rating. This movie may do well opening day from all of the media exposure, but it probably won’t last once word spreads.