This portrait of Washington super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, from his early years as a gung-ho member of the GOP political machine to his final reckoning as a disgraced, imprisoned pariah, confirms the adage that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. A tale of international intrigue involving casinos, spies, sweatshops and mob-style killings, this is a story of the way money corrupts our political process. Oscar®-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney illuminates the way politicians' desperate need to get
elected and the millions of dollars it costs may be undermining the basic principles of American democracy. Infuriating, yet undeniably eye-opening and entertaining, CASINO JACK is a saga of greed and corruption with a cynical villain audiences will love to hate.
As he proved in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney knows how to transform creative bookkeeping into compelling drama without dumbing things down. In his follow-up to Gonzo
, a portrait of rabble-rouser Hunter S. Thompson, Gibney takes on disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Stanley Tucci provides his voice in readings). Gibney begins with the Mob-style murder of a one-time associate before backtracking to Abramoff's days as chairman of the College Republicans, where he rubbed shoulders with Karl Rove and Ralph Reed--and impressed Ronald Reagan. Even as a student, however, there were signs of trouble as he laundered money through charities, a pattern he would repeat throughout the decades, always on the lookout for new loopholes. Gibney proceeds through his dealings with the Contras, an Angolan dictator, Saipan sweatshops, and Indian casinos (the debacle in Angola led him to produce the right-wing shoot-'em-up Red Scorpion
). Along the way, Abramoff ensnared lawmakers and government officials in his web as they traded political favors for campaign financing. As Bob Ney's chief of staff, Neil Volz, puts it, Abramoff "could talk a dog off a meat truck." When his house of cards finally came crashing down, Reed, Ney, Volz, Tom DeLay, and numerous others fell with him (all but Reed appear in the film). As in his other documentaries, Gibney juices the action with music cues that keep things lively, even if some of his choices are a little too on the nose, like Howlin' Wolf's "Back Door Man." --Kathleen C. Fennessy