on April 6, 2011
How long can you screw someone before you get caught? The true story of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Spacy) and his partner Michael Scanlon (Pepper). After finding a contribution loophole, Abramoff and Scanlon begin to exploit this and become very, very rich. I enjoyed this movie. I like true story movies, and I really enjoy political ones too. There was a lot of stuff in here I didn't know about. The amount he took and the favors he gave out are astounding. This movie really exposes the lengths that he and other senators will go to in order to get what they want. The movie is filled with different movie quotes from the "Godfather", "Rocky" and others, which is fun (Spacy is a pretty good impressionist). Overall I really liked this movie, and found myself liking Abramoff even less then before. The amount of money he through around to get his way is enough to make you sick, especially when you think a lot of our tax money went to helping him by a casino boat. Abramoff gets an F, as for the movie, I give it a B+.
Would I watch again? - Yes I would, this is the kind of movie I like
A Jack Abramoff film had the real potential to become an A film. Something happened on the way to the theatre. The story is one that needs to be told, good actors, but it is a film that is too outlandish and too over the top. This is probably the real Abramoff. The man who gives lobbyists a really bad name. He put Tom DeLay into the eyesight of the real world, and DeLay was found guilty at his trial. The dirty tricks and murder and mayhem attributed to Jack Abramoff and his ilk is so messy and so ugly that comparing it to the Watergate may seem second rate. All of the power in DC it seems, was beholden to Jack Abramoff. Money was given and spent freely to win elections. Abramoff says plainly that without the money he spent in Florida on Bush's behalf, Bush would not have won the Presidency. I agree with him that our country may have been a better place.
What seems to me to be the best of the film, is a scene in a Senate hearing with John McCain presiding. Some of the Senators present were given money by Abramoff and yet, here they were berating him for his practices. The real hearing with McCain present is interspersed with actors. It is quite extraordinary. Real names are used, and the actors portraying them are very much like them. This part of politics that we seem to see more of on a daily basis is abhorrent to most of us. To the politicians who inhabit DC, it is business as usual.
Jack's family stood by him. He is portrayed as a man with an ego bigger than he is. A little off center and downright crazy at times. Someone who spent money literally like water. He bought and sold and then bought and sold some more. Little thought to anyone but to his need to be the biggest man. Well, he failed.
Recommended. prisrob 04-09-11
Beyond the Sea
Love at Stake
on December 27, 2010
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Casino Jack' chronicles the rise and fall of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff starring Kevin Spacey. The film begins with his indictment, followed by a flashback to the beginning of his career as a high-powered lobbyist. The film does not get too deeply into Abramoff's activities in his younger days as head of the College Republican National committee and brief stint as a film producer. For information on his formative years, it is well advised to watch the excellent documentary about Abramoff entitled 'Casino Jack and the United States of Money'.
'Casino Jack' mainly focuses on the three major areas of Abramoff's lobbying history: work on behalf of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island (CNMI), for various Native American tribes to promote their casino gambling interests and purchase of SunCruz Casinos in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, initially owned by Konstantinos 'Gus' Boulos.
At the basic level, 'Casino Jack' provides an informative but somewhat superficial review of Abramoff's illicit activities (again, to be better informed, check out the documentary CJ and the US of Money). In the case of CNMI, sweatshop owners took advantage of the lax labor laws on the islands since the strict regulatory laws of the US did not apply. Abramoff got millions from these crooks to influence legislators to ensure that the sweatshop owners continued to exploit cheap labor imported from Asian countries. At one point, Abramoff is able to have Majority leader Tom Delay come out to the Marianas where he wines and dines him (including ubiquitous golf outings). Delay fails to make any deep inquiries regarding exploitation of the workers and is the later recipient of contributions to his campaign war chest and foundations from Abramoff. 'Casino Jack' further chronicles a setback that Abramoff must deal with--a new governor squashes Abramoff's contract so later CNMI senators are paid off and the senate council reinstates the contract. The US of Money documentary provides a sad postscript: international treaties eventually add regulatory clout to the garment industry so the sweatshop owners pick up and leave, resulting in the destruction of the islands' economy.
Abramoff's take no prisoners approach reaches its apotheosis in his dealings with the Native American tribes. Partnering with former Delay assistant, Mike Scanlon (played by an over the top Barry Pepper) Abramoff extracts millions from the Louisiana Coushatta tribe to ensure that the State of Texas passes a law preventing the Tiguas in El Paso from continuing to operate their casino there. He convinces the Coushatta tribe that his old college chum Ralph Reed, head of the Christian coalition, will work for the abolition of casino gambling in Texas. Since it would look bad that Reed was getting money from the Coushattas, their payments were funneled into a shell company under Scanlon's name. Money was sent to Reed and Scanlon but Abramoff of course got his cut, unbeknownst to the tribal leaders who agreed to the deal with Scanlon.. Then Abramoff goes back to the Tiguas and convinces them that although Reed worked against them in Texas, he actually was providing information about his anti-gambling strategy which would help Abramoff reverse the Texas ban on casino gambling. As it turned out, Abramoff's influence came to naught when Congress failed to overturn the Texas ban. The Tiguas were out millions and the embezzlement of their money figured in the eventual indictment of Abramoff.
Finally, in the most difficult to understand part of the movie, Abramoff enlists the aid of a disbarred attorney and Mattress company TV pitchman Adam Kidan, played by Jon Lovitz to purchase the SunCruz casino cruise boats. Lovitz plays Kidan as a comic sleaze-ball. The Abramoff documentary shows Kidan to be much more intelligent and classier than the way Lovitz depicts him here. The upshot of the SunCruz deal was that the owner Boulos was forced to sell his interest in his company since he was not a US Citizen. Abramoff conscripted a US representative Bob Ney (later convicted and jailed) to denounce Boulos in the Congressional record in exchange for access to Tom Delay. This apparently moved Boulos to act more quickly in agreeing to the sale of the company to Abramoff and Kidan. In order to obtain a $60 million loan, Abramoff and Kidan used a fake wire transfer of $23 million dollars and this was what they were eventually sent to prison for.
'Casino Jack' also delves into Abramoff's relationship with his wife, and some of his other interests including establishing of an Orthodox Jewish school for boys and two restaurants that he opened up for a time. Kevin Spacey is good at regurgitating all those movie lines Abramoff was famous for coupled with some notable impressions of famous politicians. But Spacey plays Abramoff more as a manic showman; the real Abramoff (in the documentary) appears to be much more low-key and cunning. Much more convincing is Spencer Garrett as Tom Delay who really gets the former representative down to a tee. Hannah Endicott-Douglass does a fine job as Abramoff's long-suffering wife. One of the best scenes is when she confronts her husband while he's taking a bath. Abramoff says he's ashamed of himself for letting 'God' down. The wife asks, "what about your family?"
For those who know nothing about the history of Jack Abramoff, 'Casino Jack' should be viewed as a basic primer on the events surrounding Abramoff's rise and fall. The film's scenarists do a fairly adequate job in covering the bases but much of what happens is not always easy to follow. That's what happens when there is too much material available to condense. I would have preferred that the casting director chose someone else besides Kevin Spacey to play Abramoff. Nevertheless, his performance is passable enough to hold one's interest to the end. I'm not entirely sure that 'Casino Jack' works as a comedy (which is what was basically done here). Certainly, there were comic moments to the saga. Overall, however, this was more tragic than funny.
on December 8, 2011
Kevin Spacey is great in this movie. We actually rented it first and it was so outstanding, we decided we needed it in our collection so we can watch it over and over again. Yes, it is that good! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. And, as usual, Amazon delivered in their normal FAST way.
on July 30, 2015
I admit that I found out about the Casino Jack movie from a Washingtonian Magazine article that features recent 2015 coverage of Kevin Spacey. This movie dvd version of Casino Jack includes photos of Kevin Spacey (as Jack Abramoff), Kelly Preston (Pam Abramoff), Jon Lovitz (Adam Kidan), and Barry Pepper (Michael Scanlon). The movie plot centers around what is listed to have been inspired by true life events as Jack Abramoff and his associates (Kidan, Scanlon etc.) were creating deals as lobbyists. However, the beginning of the movie does foreshadow a little what may happen. For instance, there is a scene where Abramoff and Scanlon are frustrated at being turned for one of the casino deals. The frustration is not what opens the door to the scandal, it is what the men are talking about doing to Bernie Sprague (Graham Greene)one of the casino members who were not in favor of retaining their services (which makes the name calling allegations tame compared to just that one act of revenge). Then things get even more complicated when the character of Abramoff is shown being let go from his job at the firm Preston Gates and Ellis, His shock is understandable due to this happening at what looks to be a highly regarded restaurant that serves top notch sushi. His natural progression of then going to work for Greenberg Traurig was to be expected. However, the movie shows that what may have indirectly affected what later happened to him was his drive to open and maintain two successful restaurants and what he did to try to keep the money flowing. For instance, the movie showed that he took Adam Kidan on as a business partner. However, things start to unravel when questions arise as to certain money balances and Kidan hires one of his mob men to “deal with and/or handle” Konstantinos Gus Boulis (Daniel Kash). Despite his best intentions, Abramoff’s daughter Sarah Abramoff (Hannah Endicott Douglas)gets a glimpse as to what may happen to her father in a scene where he is trying to pitch a script to what appears to be Hollywood area professionals who approve and spearhead certain scripts to made into movies. One of the bright spots to the film, Pam Abramoff is shown standing by her husband Jack Abramoff through both the good and adverse times, and I saw on an online aboutdotcom website that they are still married to this day. Some of the extra bonuses attributed to the Casino Jack dvd; Casino Jack; A Director’s Photo Diary, Gag Reel, and Deleted Scenes. For instance, A Director’s Photo Diary by the late George Hickenlooper features 85 different takes on what went into the creation of Casino Jack that are listed to have been compiled from May 23, 2009 to June 24, 2009 (these 85 takes featured the takes on how he felt in relation to the making of the movie when it came to collaborating with the various actors/actresses featured in Casino Jack). Additionally, screenwriter Norman Snider is among the various people discussed in this bonus feature. With these bonus features, there is so much detail just in the 85 feature take that could take up the length of at least two reviews.
Living in the CNMI and watching all the crooked stuff coming down, it was interesting and satisfying to see that the illegal lobbyists got their due - most of our local island politicians and their appointees escaped the feds but understandable in that our crooked politicos are "small potatoes" next to the big guys in Washington. It was shameful for America to see how the foreign workers survived in the garment factories at such low wages. All the factories have now moved to low-pay areas such as Viet Nam, Cambodia, etc. I enjoyed the movie, and I felt that Kevin did his typical wonderful portrayal of the main character. The other players were equally suitable and interesting in their roles. The movie is fast-moving and might be confusing unless you had some previous knowledge of the CNMI, the tribes and the gambling ships. One of the classic lines from Jack (about staying fit and healthy), "I work out every day..."
on January 13, 2012
Lots of movies poke fun at American politics by following the lives or careers of real or fictional government officials. These include movies such as Wag the Dog, and Primary Colors. This might be the first movie to do it from the standpoint of corporate lobbyists. This film follows the career of Jack Abramoff, key fundraiser for the GOP throughout the 1990's and early 2000's. The movie examines his rise through the world of influence, finally landing him in jail. Key to his story is the parallel themes of his amoral use of his skills to further the GOP, side-by-side with his personal faith to his Jewish heritage. This does bring up one point the movie left out, but should have really included, and that is the many of the politicians he helped come to power catered to evangelical Americans that often looked down on Jews as the betrayers of Christ. The film is well cast for all the roles except one, and that is Jack Abramoff himself. Outside of being a white man of about average height, Kevin Spacey bears little physical resemblance to Jack Abramoff in either voice, face, or cut. Hence the 4/5 instead of 5/5 stars.
on April 6, 2011
Barry Pepper and Kevin Spacey team up as a pair of high players in the world of the buying and selling of congressional backscratching and wannabe casino owners. If it were not for the want to venture out as private investors raking in stacks of green bundles in a Greek owned ocean faring casino, they might have expanded their schemes to more tribal casinos across the nation other than the 5 or 6 listed in the film. Spacey defines Abramhoff as a fast-talking, film quoting, pathological liar that ultimately and predictably had business connections and dealings with the seedy underworld. What seems to be a consistent historical end to many of the corrupt and fast money-making scams with a "damn the torpedos" mentality is that everyone surrounding Mr. Abramhoff, including his most loyal and faithful business partner Michael Scanlon (Pepper), runs to their own corner of safe haven while turning all evidence to the justice department. The congressmen he gave money to campaign for elections not only turned their backs on him, but prosecuted him in hearings by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The Senate hearings was headed by John McCain, the very man he defeated in lobbying and activism for the election of former President Bush. Pepper does a convincing job as the hapless womanizer and partner Scanlon of Abramhoff's schemes, no matter how many times he is asked, "how soon can you empty your desk", but Spacey seems to have his Robin Williams moments of imitating movie lines of everyone from Walter Matthau to Al Pacino as Abramhoff was known to do, even to the point of his wife and his bosses no longer finding it amusing, but I did. What Jack Abramhoff did to the Indian tribes is no different than what the US Government and industries have been doing for centuries to natives.
on July 26, 2011
I really enjoyed this film. I can't speak to the facts, and to what extent the events portrayed are true vs. exaggerated (it is an unreal tale no matter which version you read), but as entertainment, it worked for me. It definitely is not done in a documentary style, as some films based on current events are. It is nutty, almost surreal - the writers have taken the more absurdist aspects of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's story and played off them to create a unique tone. I know many consider it a political satire, and I guess it is, but it is also a bit more absurdist than that at times. In that, it is PERFECT for Kevin Spacey, and I thought this was an Oscar-worthy performance. He looks like he is having A LOT of fun doing this, and that carries over to the viewer.
I also enjoyed the supporting cast - Kelly Preston as Abramoff's wife, Barry Pepper as his partner Michael Scanlon, and Spencer Garrett as congressman Tom DeLay. As I said, an unreal tale in any style, and the comedic tone in this one lets Kevin Spacey really bring that to the fore.
on March 26, 2013
Jack Abramoff got what he deserved with all his carrying on with Senators to pass bills for Indian gambling but then he took the Indian tribe to the "cleaners." But the tribe brought everything to the feds attention & an investigation was in the works. Had lots of intrigue & wanting to see how he was caught.