Abramoff must be as happy as an inmate can be right now because, thanks to producer/star Kevin Spacey and director George Hickenlooper’s final film, Casino Jack, he’s finally made it to the big screen… and in a comedy that seems to empathize with him none-the-less. I remember seeing the documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money writing down the following on my notepad, “though this is a good documentary, I feel like like story of Casino Jack would have been better off being turned into a fictional story based on facts.

My wish has been granted! Here we go…

The Players:

  • Director: George Hickenlooper
  • Writer: Norman Snider
  • Stars: Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper and Jon Lovitz
  • Score: Jonathan Goldsmith
  • Cinematography: Adam Swica

The Plot:

A hot shot Washington DC lobbyist and his protégé go down hard as their schemes to peddle influence lead to corruption and murder.

The Good:

  • The Song and Dance: Politics and comedians go together like bread and butter. Both are great at putting on huge song and dance to disguise what they’re doing as something else. In this film they succeed greatly in showing the whirlwind of corruption that took place and they do it with a number of laughs. Good times all around!
  • Say What You Think: Though documentaries are supposed to be more “honest” than films, the fact is that in the political world what you say and what you do is who you are. The way that Abramoff and those like him act in front of the public, in front of a camera, or even when they’re alone, all matters. As much to themselves as others, they have to believe they’re doing the right thing and show others that. SO! They’re never going to be the real truth because they would never say the truth to anyone, mainly because that can’t say anything they could be held accountable for it. A fictional story based on facts actually allows us to see more sides of the situation than any documentary every could. Therefore we actually get to understand what happened better in this film than in the documentary which is in some ways actually more biased than the fictional story. Can you dig?
  • Let’s Face It: Very few people watch documentaries. This is an important story with a poignant message, it’s better to find a way to get it to the people in an easy to swallow way, like a comedy with A-listers. This is not the film where you take big risks on, this is the film you set up for success because the message needs to be seen — done and done.
  • Pay Off: I imagine their was a huge sense of pay off for Abramoff himself when he got to watch his character tell McCain to “fuck off!” Which is something many of us which we could say to his face, but especially Abramoff. Overall the film builds up nicely and though it might not end happily it will leave with with a chuckle and a few thoughts to contemplate.
  • Lovitz: Despite the impressive cast, he steals scene after scene and his character in many ways is actually the most human. He’s wonderful in this film, simply wonderful.
  • “I Work Out Every Day”: Great line and very well used….

The Bad:

  • Pacing: Overall the pacing in this film was not bad, but there were a few lulls in momentum. A few cuts or maybe some different music could have helped speed things along a bit more. That being said, these moments were very brief and not something to be strongly discouraged by.
  • No Way In: Though I was fascinated by the story and interested in the characters, I never really found a character I could connect with and therefore never felt completely invested in the story. I couldn’t help but think, “Yes, Abramoff did bad things, but no worse than everyone else who didn’t get in trouble, but I still can’t side with him because at the end of the day he’s still just another greedy fuck.”

Overall:

This is a good film, for one reason or another it didn’t completely grab me. It has good performances, an interesting theme, and some funny moments — but that’s about it. There are no awe-inspiring moments or revelations, but there is a lot of good to be had. And this is George Hickenlooper final film due to his untimely death. If you’re a fan of his work you won’t be disappointed. It’s a strong last piece.

Rating: 6.5/10

Casino Jack is in theaters starting December 17th!

Photo Gallery:

Trailer:

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