The Tall, True Tale of ‘Casino Jack’

Casino Jack (2010)

 6.5/10  R

You know those movies that aren’t at all impressive but don’t necessarily leave a bad taste on your palate either? They don’t blow you away with comical lines nor dramatic scenes nor thrills or action…yet they weren’t awful? Well, I would love to say Casino Jack wasn’t one of those movies. But it was.

A portrait of the life of criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff (You know the story, Abramoff lobbied a little tough on Native Indian casinos, landing himself in a bit of trouble and spending some time in jail, deemed “the new Watergate” in the movie), Casino Jack follows the Washington insider from his rise in the casino biz to his subsequent fall. Kevin Spacey is solid, but with a reputation like his, solid is a bit disappointing. Who the hell is Barry Pepper? Apparently he played Roger Maris in “61*” and Dean Stanton in The Green Mile, but I would’ve never guessed he had such a résumé by seeing this. He’s awfully peculiar and plays the self-gratifying prick, Abramoff’s right-hand man Michael Scanlon.

They even match ties!

Now I remember why I don’t enjoy Jon Lovitz! From A League of Their Own to “SNL,” his incredibly annoying, irritating voice proves too much. He can’t play a likeable character, just low down, self-admitted scumballs that can’t seem to catch a break but don’t really care. If we never had to hear that voice again, the world would be all the better for it.

Who knew Spacey was such an impressionist? While obviously doing Abramoff throughout the entire movie, his character also impersonates Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Rocky, and more, all pretty well! He did get a Golden Globe nomination for the role, which is a bit surprising. I mean, Spacey plays characters with personalities similar to Jack Abramoff often, so in a way he was born for the role (besides the lack of comparable looks), but I suppose it was a weak year for Musical/Comedy leading men.

Since this blog does happen to focus on film, I suppose it’s fitting to mention that Abramoff also dabbled a bit in Hollywood, producing and writing Red Scorpion, a 1988 Dolph Lundgren movie that currently holds a 4.3 user rating on IMDb. The film focuses on a Soviet KGB agent ordered to kill an anti-Communist revolutionary in Africa, only to find himself more swayed by their cause, so he swaps sides and fights against his country. Not a terrible story for a Washington lobbyist.

Kelly Preston also stars, but doesn’t shine

While the movie doesn’t blow me away in really any way, at the very least it can claim some educational value. I feel my knowledge of Abramoff’s story is raised a bit, so that’s always a plus.

By the way, you can get really excited for the soundtrack, some of which sounds a bit like it was recorded by the cast of “Glee,” a jazzy, campy tune complete with vocal beats.

On a more serious note, I would like to dedicate this post to director George Hickenlooper, who died of an accidental prescription overdose just a day after Casino Jack was first shown in America at the Austin Film Festival. He is survived by his wife and son, for whom my thoughts go out.

Casino Jack is on DVD and Blu-ray. And remember, subscribe to email updates at the bottom of your screen, the only way to know when I post a new review.

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2 thoughts on “The Tall, True Tale of ‘Casino Jack’

  1. You had me at Washington insider and a Glee inspired soundtrack 🙂 Two of my favorites so I’ll have to add this movie to my list of movies to watch over winter break. I like that review a mix of popular movies as well as those that don’t get much press. Good job!

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