Casino Jack ***

casinojack

I have to admit that I was not familiar with Jack Abramoff when I saw this movie.  Afterwards I was surprised at how closely the film stayed to the story.  Well as close to the public consensus of what really happened as it could. A lot of this must have been fictionalized, but the broad strokes are hard to create out of thin air, especially when you are using characters based on real people complete with their real names.

Director George Hickenlooper is not afraid to present this as authentically as possible.  I’m curious if there were any legal hoops he had to jump through to make this film.  Did the writer, Norman Snider, ever consider his career could be at risk?  Whether he did or not I applaud them for what they have created here.

The story involves a powerful Lobbyist in Washington who defrauded millions of dollars from Native American tribes, invested it in sleazy floating Casinos, and ended up at the center of a massive scandal.  He was eventually sent to prison for his crimes and ended up working in a pizza parlour.  He is played here by Kevin Spacey in a great charismatic performance. 

His partner in crime was Mike Scanlon, played by Barry Pepper, in a performance that I think should be competing for awards attention.  I have never seen Pepper in a role like this.  Compare his work here to his role in “True Grit” as the hard boiled outlaw.  He remains one of the most underrated actors of his generation.

The movie itself is pretty good.  I found it very interesting but not truly compelling.  I would not mind seeing Hickenlooper tackling a more meaty project.  Still this is a very entertaining movie that shines a light on some very corrupt people.

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