Casino Jack and the United States of Money Alex Gibney

Casino Jack and the United States of Money Alex Gibney
I'm only a casual follower of American politics and know very little of the complex system of lobbying, wherein third-party organizations hire non-governmental third-party firms to pressure members of Congress into voting and passing Bills, thus influencing the policies of the nation. Casino Jack attempts to make sense of this system, which is overly reliant on money, and thus susceptible to corruption, telling the story Jack Abramoff, the king of the lobbyists, who was famously indicted and served time for fraud. It's no surprise this is a Republican story. When it comes to political controversy, for Democrats, it always seems to be sex scandals; for Republicans, it's always about money. As the most aggressively free-market country in the world, success in business seems to go to those who can push the moral and ethical edge to the max in order to squeeze as much cash out of the system. Jack Abramoff squeezed a lot; it's a head-spinning first hour of information thrown at us. Like All the President's Men or even that lengthy speech by Donald Sutherland in the middle of Oliver Stone's JFK, Alex Gibney bombards us with names of lobbyists, politicians, dollar figures and organizations that Abramoff used to move money from place to place in exchange for political favours. The title refers to Abramoff's association with Native American Casinos, which Abramoff exploited in order to cheat and swindle millions. Abramoff scoured the world for loopholes to exploit, including supporting sweatshop-manufacturing operations in the unregulated U.S. commonwealth nation of Sai Pan. Casino Jack produces the same effect as watching Charles Ferguson's Inside Job, or even Gibney's Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, all of which simplify the complexities of white-collar crime. Casino Jack arrives on DVD, coinciding with the release of the dramatic version of this story, starring Kevin Spacey and directed by former documentarian George Hickenlooper (who sadl,y died last year). There's enough special features to add even more context and information, as if we didn't get enough in the actual film. Unfortunately, we're also given a rather large pitch for "Take Part," an advocate group against these heinous lobbying practices. It's an important cause, but ironically, we feel as if we're being lobbied to by watching this. (VVS)