Movies based on actual political events tend to be a little dicey for me because there are just way too many ways to mess it up. The last political movie I watched, “Frost/Nixon,” wasn’t bad per se, but it was certainly too long and too boring for me to pay attention. “Thirteen Days,” my favorite in the genre, kept my attention and was factually accurate, which helped to offset Kevin Costner’s ridiculous Massachusetts accent.”Casino Jack” combines these two movies perfectly, making it my second favorite political movie of all time.
Kevin Spacey plays Jack Abramoff, the infamous Washington lobbyist who, along with Whiote House aides Rep. Bob Ney and a host of others, was indicted on fraud and corruption charges. Abramoff and his partner, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), did a lobbying job for a group of Choctaw Indians who wanted to make sure a neighboring tribe’s casino wouldn’t compete heavily with theirs. After charging the Choctaw more for their consulting fees, Scanlon convinces Abramoff to get into the casino business, inspired by the Indians’ billion dollar industry. With the help of mattress purveyor Adam Kidan (Jon Lovitz in a welcome return to legitimate Hollywood films), Scanlon convinces Abramoff to buy a fleet of casino boats run by a shady family and just lie that the Abramoff empire begins it inexorable journey to fame, fortune and Federal indictments. The real Jack Abramoff was released last month to a halfway house after serving three-and-a-half of a six year bid.
The Good: Everything. This was director George Hickenlooper’s final film before his death in October 2010, and he couldn’t have gone out on a better note. The writing was smart and funny. The plot was mostly factually accurate, a few exaggerations and the like aside for entertainment’s sake. Kevin Spacey’s Abramoff was excellent, and this is one of the few movies where Barry Pepper stars that I actually will remember. Remember, he won Best Supporting Razzie for “Battlefield Earth” way back when.
Jon Lovitz: He’s a fine comedian, he did a great job in the movie, he even delivered one of the funniest lines in the movie, which I can’t say since it would definitely be not safe for work.
The Bad: Nothing really, but if I were pressed for an answer, I’d say the women. Before I get stabbed to death by angry feminists, let me explain. Kelly Preston and Rachelle LeFevour showed up and gave good performances as Pam Abramoff and Scanlon’s fiancée Emily, respectively. The roles themselves were written well enough, it’s just the fact I wasn’t as emotionally invested in them as was probably called for. When the shoes dropped at the end, I’m sure there was more tension and emotion in the scene than was translating for me, I just didn’t see it is all. That said, men, make a note to not make Rachelle LeFevour angry. Watch, you’ll see why.
Final Verdict: If Casino Jack is playing near you, I would indeed recommend paying $9 to see this movie. You heard that right, ladies and gentlemen, “Casino Jack” is worth the price of a grossly-overpriced movie ticket. For those inclined, it also makes a good gift when it comes out on DVD and blu-ray.
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