Casino Jack Review
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Hollywood loves its bad guys. Whether they’re the bank-robbing, gun-toting variety or the ledgers-and-spreadsheets, white-collar variety, filmmakers (and moviegoers) just can’t get enough. And if their story gets tangled up in politics, better yet. So, with all of these crooks constantly popping up in theaters, each new release needs some kind of edge to help it stand out in the crowd. Maybe it’s an unbelievable true story—or flashy effects. For director George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack, it’s Kevin Spacey. Unfortunately, though, even Spacey isn’t enough to make this quirky bio a noteworthy film.

Spacey stars as businessman and Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Not long ago, Jack’s job was to wine and dine politicians in hopes of influencing their votes. But then the pressure from his superiors and his own overwhelming debt got the best of him—and he ended up getting himself into even shadier business.

Casino Jack documents the downward spiral that eventually led to Abramoff’s arrest. It touches on his relationship with politicians like Tom DeLay (Spencer Garrett) and Bob Ney (Jeff Pustil), his involvement in (and subsequent swindling of) Indian casinos, and a handful of other scams along the way.

Spacey, of course, is the center of attention. His Abramoff is a fascinating character—a slick, fast-talking businessman who knows just what to say and when to say it. And, if that doesn’t work, he’s got a movie quote ready for every occasion. He’s outgoing and energetic—and he could probably sell ice to a polar bear. At the same time, though, he’s a walking contradiction—a devout Jew who’s taking money from Native Americans so he can open a fancy Jewish school and some high-scale kosher restaurants in D.C.

As always, Spacey is a joy to watch as his character negotiates, deliberates, and smooth-talks his way through every situation. It isn’t his best performance, but he deftly plays the character’s game of influence, lies, and manipulation. Still, his entertaining performance just isn’t enough. Hickenlooper seems to be trying to inject some quirky comedy into the story, but the tone is uneven—either too kooky or not kooky enough. For the most part, the story is a rather complicated blur of shady business deals orchestrated by a somewhat eccentric character. At other times, it’s uncomfortably ridiculous—especially when Jon Lovitz shows up as wacky mob-connected mattress salesman turned casino boss Adam Kidan.

Toward the end, the pace picks up, and the story comes together in an amusing twist that could only happen in Hollywood—or Washington. But while Spacey is once again a wonder to behold, the rest of Casino Jack is uneven and unremarkable—just another movie about white-collar corruption.

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