“My name is Jack Abramoff. I love my family and I work out every single day,” he recites into the bathroom mirror, authoritatively prodding his toothbrush like a lecture stick. I feel like that’s all I learned about Jack over an entire 100 minutes. Well, that, and the man likes movies. A fascinating biopic should tell you more about who a man is than simply what he did.
Abramoff did produce a Dolph Lundgren movie in the 1980’s, but Casino Jack focuses on what he’s most famous for — his “super-lobbyist” work that would later earn him 6-year prison sentence. He basically delivered whatever it took (women, money, etc.) to help politicians pass their desired bills.
The pacing is so frenzied and the editing so choppy that his story is almost incomprehensible. So please, don’t watch this film for political insight or a lesson in recent history. A documentary (Casino Jack and the United States of Money) also exists, and it surely does a better job of that.
As much of a mess as it is, Casino Jack keeps chugging along on its fuel of colorful characters and an often hilarious script. Kevin Spacey received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Abramoff, but Barry Pepper delivers the film’s best performance as his even more foolish and sleazy partner in crime, Michael Scanlon. Casino Jack doesn’t glamorize them and exposes their luxurious lifestyle as a fraudulent act.
The film takes it a bit easy on Jack and even justifies his work in some ways. He dreams of making enough money to build a youth center. Scanlon, on the other hand, is treated as absolute slime. All of his money is spent on women and renovating his own Xanadu.
Jon Lovitz also shows up to remind those who forgot about him just how funny he can be. He plays a low-profile businessman who becomes a pawn in Abramoff and Scanlon’s plot to screw Indian tribes out of millions of dollars to take over their casinos.
Casino Jack basically falls in line with better movies following the smart-guy-gone-dumb plot. But who doesn’t enjoy a good downward spiral? So feel free to enjoy the movie for Spacey’s outlandish impersonations Al Pacino and Bill Clinton, but don’t expect it to reach the greatness of The Informant! or Shattered Glass.