Published Jan 20, 2011Not to be mistaken with Alex Gibney's moderately more engaging documentary of the same name, which is similarly about DC lobbyist/douche-bag Jack Abramoff, Casino Jack is a template biopic with droning, expositional political dialogue that caters to a liberal demographic, with Kevin Spacey in the middle of it all, making his bid for a Best Actor nomination. If ever a film aimed to feel like a sub-par HBO movie from the mid-'90s, this would be it.
Tossing out film quotes and professing his superiority over the humdrum mediocrity of the masses, Abramoff (Spacey) details the process of lobbying, hinging on the corrupt aspect, while concocting his own plan for fiscal gain, involving Indian and offshore casinos. Wife Pam (Kelly Preston) is reluctant to support his shady antics, but his red wine-drinking assistant, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), is more than happy to reap the rewards that come with the ride.
Most people would know about his association with Senator Tom DeLay (Spencer Garrett) and the role he played in that controversy, which leaves most of the film acting as a smarmy exercise in criticizing a flawed political system and Republican thought, something akin to shooting tuna in a barrel.
Now, it's not a question of a film not succeeding in its intentions, as there is no denying that Hickenlooper and the gang make their point quite clearly. Similarly, Kevin Spacey does bring an entitled, glib, cynical Abramoff to life in an oddly playful way that works quite well, despite everyone else being mawkish and cartoony, such as slimy mattress entrepreneur Adam Kidan (Jon Lovitz).
It's just that every line of dialogue is filled with nefarious posturing and every moment feels borrowed from something superior. Giving a shit about Abramoff and his quest is impossible, since he's portrayed as such a tool, so the impetus is to cheer for his downfall.
Since we already know what happens, the ire of the ordeal comes from the storytelling, which is almost non-existent. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, with exactly the right emphasis, but it's boring and familiar, much like the politics spewed in every glossy tableau. (eOne)