Inspired by the true events surrounding the downward spiraling career of Washington D.C. lobbyist and businessman Jack Abramoff, “Casino Jack” is a compelling comedic drama.
Wading through fast-talking political jargon may pose difficulties for some audiences but there is no doubt that writer Norman Snider’s sharp dialogue is worth the effort. Nor is there any doubt that Spacey gives one of his best performances in years as a unapologetically charismatic con man.
Oh, and he works out every day.
Spacey portrays Abramoff, a man who parlays his clout over some of the world’s most powerful men with the goal of creating a personal empire of wealth and influence. The character’s monologue at the start of the film says it best:
“Some people say ‘Jack Abramoff moves too fast. Jack Abramoff cuts corners.’ Well, I say to them, ‘If that’s the difference between me and my family having a good life and walking and using the subway everyday then so be it! I will not allow my family to be slaves! I will not allow the world I touch to be vanilla!’”
So, aided by his business partner Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), who may or may not be a sex addict, and much to the dismay of his wife (Kelly Preston), Abramoff does whatever it takes to climb the financial ladder, using politicians and entire tribes of Native Americans as his rungs.
However, when Abramoff enlists a mob-connected businessman (Jon Lovitz) to help with one of his illegal schemes, he finds himself over his head, entrenched in a world of mafia assassins, murder and a scandal that spins so out of control, that it makes worldwide headlines.
For those who do not know the story, Abramoff’s scandal led to the conviction of himself, two White House officials, Rep. Bob Ney and nine other lobbyists and congressional staffers. In Abramoff’s case, he served three and a half years of a six-year sentence in federal prison before being released last month.
The timing of “Casino Jack” is certainly no mistake, as a similarly titled documentary – “Casino Jack and the United States of Money” – was also released last year. Although it does come with a bit of sadness considering the film’s director George Hickenlooper passed away a just a few short months ago.
However, Hickenlooper should be proud of the product he left behind. “Casino Jack” is an outstanding cinematic effort that gets up close and personal with a man whose narcissism made headlines without making you dislike the guy. After all, Abramoff’s biggest crime of all was his charisma.
And Spacey relays said charisma probably even better than Abramoff himself. There is no doubt that Spacey hits the jackpot with his performance in “Casino Jack,” which is intensified only by Snider’s quick-witted screenwriting. As already said, Snider’s script is so pointed that the politically-challenged may find themselves left in the dust.
But there is still plenty of stuff here for even those folks to enjoy. At the heart of it, “Casino Jack” is just a smart story about a charismatic man who will do anything to get what he wants – to his own destruction. Watching that unfold is entirely entertaining, even if it does appear to take some liberties with the truth.
“Casino Jack” (R – 108 minutes) is now playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. Visit NCM.com for specific showtimes.
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