Casino Jack

  • 2011-01-13
  • By Laurence Boyce

 Director: George Hickenlooper

The election of Barack Obama has done little to quell the anger directed at George Bush Jr. from the liberal intelligentsia. Films such as Oliver Stone’s “W.” have tried to examine just what made both him and the Republican Party tick, whilst barely suppressing the anger felt at 8 years of (perceived) mis-management. “Casino Jack” turns its attention to the world of lobbyists, those people who - for the right price - can influence the politicians and get things done. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t portray them in a flattering light.

Kevin Spacey plays Jack Abramoff, a hotshot lobbyist who wines and dines the great and good to make sure that votes go his way and money goes into his pocket. Alongside his partner, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper, in fine weaselly form), he becomes embroiled in a scheme to own a new casino amidst intricate deals amongst Native American tribes that soon turn against him. Just how long before the man, who has the ear of the most important people in the White House, is cast aside when his more shady actions are revealed?

It’s Spacey who makes this film, turning in a typically excellent performance as Abramoff (whilst being given the opportunity to do some of the impressions that he’s brilliant at: it’s a shame he doesn’t get the chance to do his spot-on Christopher Walken). Avoiding the urge to make Abramoff a simple bad guy, Spacey paints a complex picture of a man who is driven by altruism and a system in which anything goes.

Yet, despite Spacey’s performance and the film’s obvious passion to shine a light on the seedier side of politics (it’s based on a true story), it still feels rather flat. Hickenlooper’s direction is more suited to the small screen and the supporting performances from the likes of Jon Lovitz seem rather broad and out-of-kilter with the rest of the film.

Still, for Spacey’s performance alone, this is a fine examination of the U.S. political system and its inherent problems.

Now showing in all three countries.


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