Casino Jack (2010)

Biography, Comedy, Crime
Kevin Spacey, Ruth Marshall, Graham Greene, Hannah Endicott-Douglas
A hot shot Washington DC lobbyist and his protégé go down hard as their schemes to peddle influence lead to corruption and murder.
Kevin Spacey turns in one of his stronger performances, but Casino Jack is a disappointingly uneven fictionalized account of a fascinating true story.
  • ATO Pictures Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 28 Dec 2010 Released:
  • 05 Apr 2011 DVD Release:
  • $1.0M Box office:

Trailer:

Superlative and darkly humorous saga of disillusionment5/10
I confess to having followed Jack Abramoff's actual denouement years ago only as much as I could tolerate without gagging. My feelings toward lobbyists are mostly of disgust anyway. But to separate this work of art from the morality of its subject matter, I must say that this is a fine, fine film. Mr. Hickenlooper's death is a profound loss to all of us. I find Kevin Spacey and Barry Pepper at the top of their form here. The character and the situation give Spacey a broad stage to display his talents and range. Abramoff is no easy character to portray with any sympathy at all, and I had virtually none, but my outrage over the facts didn't spoil my enjoyment of the entertainment one bit. A tribute to all involved.

As far as the abuses portrayed, all I can say is, I really hope the American citizenry somehow wakes up and unites to end the stranglehold that cash has put on our democracy. The utter hypocrisy and self-serving, greedy behavior of our politicians is harming us for generations to come. If they truly love their country, they must reject and expose lobbyists sacrificing our national welfare to Mammon.
You won't believe what lobbyists are doing in this country.7/10
Jack Abramoff was a very successful but very greedy Washington lobbyist who now sits in a federal jail serving out his 4 year prison term scheduled to released later this year. Director George Hickenlooper had the idea to tell his story and enlisted writer Norman Snider to put together the screenplay based on the facts of this true story. Hickenlooper spent 30 hours visiting Abramoff in prison to gather as much information as possible to add to their study of the historical documents upon which this movie was based. Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey who plays Abramoff participated in one of these five jailhouse visits and he apparently hit it off quite well with the protagonist despite their being at opposite poles of the political spectrum. If you know the widely reported story of how Abramoff took excessive fees from multiple Indian tribes, was involved with shady business deals and paid off congressmen landing at least one in jail and causing Tom Delay majority leader of Senate to quit this position and his Senate seat, you may be a little bored as the details are played out. On the other hand, many viewers will be getting a great history lesson at the same time that they are seeing a very well done movie. Barry Pepper is sufficiently nefarious in looks and deeds as Michael Scanlon, Abramoff's partner who deserved more than he got for punishment. Jon Lovitz plays an almost completely serious role as a not so smart and crooked enough to end up in jail, business associate of Abramoff. Political junkies will love this movie. You can't help coming away from seeing it without wondering how can we let our political system continue to function without reigning in lobbyists. Hickenlooper related an incident, which he touches upon at the end of the film, where while in jail anticipating his release shortly before the upcoming 2010 elections Abramoff has expressed a desire to collaborate with the Democrats and reveal information that he knows about the Republicans in order to hurt them in this and future elections. While this film is scheduled for wide release and distribution prior to the November election, there is also another movie coming out at the same time about Abramoff, which is an actual documentary and may have the same name as this one. Instead of Kevin Spacey that one will star the real Abramoff.
My 348th Review: You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried -blackest political comedy of the year8/10
Both gobsmakingingly awesome in its (true) take on Washington and just way OTT look at the Beltway, CJ is just so good. Honestly, if this had been made as fiction you'd shoot it down as implausible - the stink goes how high? - but here we see lobbyist and senators in cahoots to get the dollar in their pocket at the expense of just about every body else.

Spacey is in fine form, with a sterling support cast, and the film is best viewed as a buckle up and grin fair ride to the underbelly of politics - it really is so way beyond your standard black comedy or satire that it's just jaw dropping.

We enjoyed CJ - it doesn't aim to be a political thriller or have any great message but it is a lot of black comedy and seriously messed-up situations from beginning to end.....

Have fun now.....
Kevin Spacey delivers a superb performance!6/10
Kevin Spacey is truly an actor to adore. The Two-Time Academy-Award Winner has proved his talent time and again. In 'Casino Jack', he gets even better and delivers a superb performance.

'Casino Jack' is based on Jack Abramoff. Abramoff, is one of the most notorious lobbyist's ever. 'Casino Jack', however focuses, on the time when Abramoff & his protege went down hard...as their schemes to peddle influence lead to corruption and a brutal murder.

Director George Hickenlooper does a good job, while Norman Snider's writing is flawed. The writing in the first hour is spot-on, but in the second hour, it falters. Even the culmination for that matter, doesn't leave the desired impact. Acting wise, as told, Spacey owns the film. He plays Abramoff superbly. He truly is an Icon! Barry Pepper is Excellent.

On the whole, 'Casino Jack' can be viewed once, for it's lead star's performance. Must for Spacey Fans!
Frequently Enjoyable, Though Heavily Flawed6/10
2010 seems to be the year that Hollywood universally decided to take its look at one of the great government scandals this past decade, producing both the documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money, and this accompanying (albeit more fictionalized) account of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. After seemingly searching for a juicy role since his duel Oscar winning performances in the mid to late '90s with The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, Kevin Spacey is back in fine form and dominates the screen in this frequently enjoyable, though heavily flawed, rise and fall fable.

Oddly, what makes this movie great also represents its largest shortcomings. The acting is as varied as Abramoff's excuses pertaining to the generous "donations" he receives in the film itself. Barry Pepper as Jack's right-hand man Michael steals scenes at a whim when given the chance and could have easily elevated the film further if given more screen time. Spacey is superb bringing a delicious blend of pompous charm and sleazy anger to the role, and even manages to deliver both a credible Sylvester Stallone and Al Pacino impression amidst the political turmoil his character eventually encounters.

On the other hand, there are some disastrously misguided casting choices, beginning with Kelly Preston as Jack's wife and even though she exhibits some swagger towards the beginning to the film, she is unable to keep up with more skilled thespians as situations escalate towards the finale. The most egregious error is most certainly the inclusion of Jon Lovitz as the owner of a cruise line and casino who undertakes business dealings with Abramoff. Lovitz has proved himself a skilled comedian in supporting roles and did consistently great voice work on The Simpsons. Here, he is an unmitigated disaster, single handily sinking the picture on multiple occasions. He seems oblivious as to when to calm down, his camera mugging and inflections are grinding, and he is apparently unable to quit being Jon Lovitz and simply shut up; this is simply a poor choice by late director George Hickenlooper.

The story at play is a fascinating one, and seeing Jack at his manipulative best even as his world comes crashing down is engrossing. The middle portion however does its bookend acts an injustice, sagging down the segments exploring the infamous lobbyist rise and his inevitable fall. Hickenlooper seems unable to decide how to structure the transition; not how Spacey handles the material pertaining to his character's downfall, but rather the jumble of events by which it is precipitated. Though the event itself makes for inspired reading in venues such as the news or a fact-based doc, perhaps there is not enough substantial material (or maybe too much) to make a fully compelling fictionalized account.

Though ultimately less than the sum of its parts, Casino Jack is timely, passionately constructed and true to its source events. Abramoff is successfully made into the three-dimensional character that those close to him likely knew, and that the media was never able to (or more likely never wanted to) capture. Spacey is without a doubt a large part of this indelibly fiery characterization and strangely (obviously for reasons we will never know) seems more invested in this character than he has in any during the last ten years. Casino Jack's follies are all the more disappointingly glaring considering how strong the hard-hitting portions were, and though better than the average fact-based account, good enough is never good enough when greatness seems to be within reach.