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Customer Review

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God Bless Money! And America! Like us, Gibney lets these crooks off far too easily., September 27, 2010
This review is from: Casino Jack and the United States of Money (DVD)
Though not as engrossing as Gibney's Enron doc, Casino Jack lays out the facts and lets Abramoff's almost surreal greed speak for itself. Some call this one-sided, but considering the well-documented facts, emails, and other endlessly incriminating evidence that Abramoff and pals handed the world on a platter, Gibney seems kind here.

There are so many politicians who were taking dirty money from Jack, and giving it to him as well. This film could have been a C-Spannish ten hours. Instead it just sticks to the basics of Abramoff and his Tom DeLay connections. That DeLay can sit in interviews for this film and smile while essentially saying he did little that was wrong is almost unbelievable, and the hard evidence presented throughout of his endlessly criminal behavior makes it more so. His and Abramoff's and so many other politicians' support of evil sweatshops and sex abuse in Saipan is shown clearly here, and it's ugly stuff.

Scanlon and Reed still have zero shame, apparently, though Kidan shows some in interviews. That DeLay still has no remorse for what he helped do to all those families only shows how much further Gibney could and should have taken this film. Wussup, Tommy the (laughably crappy) Dancer? So only your brand of merkun family counts? Kill and rape the rest?

Frankly, DeLay deserves his own film, and one a lot tougher than Casino Jack. As much as I enjoyed CJ, after a while it felt too breezy. But then again, who could stomach an honestly hard-eyed look at the long litany of serious crimes these criminals committed in the name of God and Country(TM)? These men are truly evil, and the way they laughingly supported sex crimes in Saipan, among so many other Satanic acts in the name of their God (certainly not mine or any decent, honest person's), all while grinning on hundreds of deluxe golf courses, is the very height of repugnant amorality. Their many crimes, including the cheating of Indian tribes for almost $100 million, are brutal, but it's their abuse of women and children in Saipan that still make me feel sick to my stomach. How can these guys sleep at night...let alone call themselves "religious"?!

And ain't it fascinating how McCain's investigation side-stepped dozens of politicians who were part of all these crimes? Jack was no doubt paid off yet again for his silence. Gotta give Abramoff credit: he got it from all sides all the way down the line. When it comes to sliming, Jack Abramoff is a mile-high snail. Gibney also barely touches on Wall Street's role in all this, a real oversight. The sickening bailouts are easily traceable back to Jack's payola and its role in promoting deregulation and the myriad bogus derivatives that have brought us to the edge of total ruin (and now that the new laughable rules for Wall Street have changed almost nothing, expect another collapse and soon. Somewhere, Abraham-off will probably get his cut...).

An interesting sidenote is that the soundtrack to Casino Jack has more truly great and entirely apropos tunes than I may have ever heard in any film. Huge hits that would normally cost a million to license are here by the dozen. Gibney must have sold each group on being part of an expose of some of the biggest American crooks of our time, and they kindly gave him the rights for free. Check out the perfectly matched songs here, and their quality, from old Chess blues classics to Dylan, Metallica, Talking Heads and other rarely-licensed groups, and then listen for a collection that diverse on any other film, even a $200 million studio epic; you won't find one from the past few decades. Who knows? Maybe Abramoff lobbied the bands!

As for Casino Jack being "unfairly one-sided", it would be hard to make a "fair" documentary about Abramoff and DeLay; where are the good things to show about them? These men were at the heart of turning our federal government into a nearly 100% pay-for-play world, and we are suffering more every year for the criminal behavior they made normal in D.C. If we were serious about the War On Terror, these guys would be in jail forever---or frankly, executed for treason--- along with all their cronies. Few terrorists of any nation have done more to hurt the USA than Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay, and this film only scratches the surface of how badly they've cheated Americans of all political and religious beliefs.

Yet why shouldn't they, except for trying to be decent people (as if they care about that)? They've paid almost no penalty. Jack gets 4 years in some country club prison and keeps his $100,000,000+ dirty money; Bob Ney is the only Congress critter who gets in any trouble at all, and then not much; no one involved does more than a few years in the can; and the scummiest of the scum, DeLay, dances away scot-free while his redistricting and other criminal acts will screw America for years to come. So why shouldn't everyone break the law? Like Goldman Sachs, they can steal a trillion and pay less than a billion in fines. That's a phenomenal 10,000% ROI! We're almost begging these shysters to take whatever they want. Will they ever be stopped, or do we have to watch everything crumble first?

Clearly the latter.

*Hugely disillusioned sigh*

The dvd of Casino Jack has some good extras, including deleted scenes, extended interviews (Kidan's comments about Scanlon are scary to say the least), Gibney and "friends" at a premiere answering questions (the presence of Ney, Kidan and Volz is bizarre; what, now you've seen the light? Too little too late, boys), a full-length commentary from Gibney, a nice little Schoolhouse Rock parody, and a very brief overview of Citizens United and why McCain-Feingold was a joke. It also points out that YOU AND I need to step up and write our representatives MANY angry letters if we ever expect any change whatsoever.

So get writing!...!...!!!!!!!!

Gibney takes a good shot at the truth here, but he needs to go the final step and make a film showing all the connections between our government and organized crime around the world, in the form of banks, arms dealers/defense contractors, casinos, prostitution, agribiz, corporate welfare, and so much else. It's time. If we don't stop this soon, there'll be nothing left to steal.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 28, 2010 10:02:29 AM PDT
I found myself agreeing with everything you said in your review, but I'd knock the rating down at least one more star for the criticism you brought up twice, and that is that the film doesn't do a great job showing the long-term damage done by Abramoff's shenanigans. Aside from showing how one of the Indian casinos got snookered out of millions of dollars, the only thing that's touched on is the collapse of the banking industry, which to me seemed hastily added on as an afterthought so that the film might seem more relevant.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2010 10:40:55 AM PDT
K. Swanson says:
The film certainly has its share of oversights, but then again it's dealing in two hours with decades of malfeasance; rather hard to squeeze so much evil in there.

As for less stars, when rating a film like this I always keep in mind the ultimate goal (from my point of view), which is to encourage people to see it, and to encourage filmmakers to make more films like it. We could pick nits forever here, but the fact is that very few movies like this are getting made, and we need a hundred times more of them.

For all its missed opportunities, Casino Jack represents a brave step by Gibney and company, and for that they get my unwavering respect and encouragement. And truly, all things considered I think they did a good job here. There's so much more to be covered but for those who know nothing of all this chicanery this film is a very good introduction.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2010 12:15:17 PM PDT
I agree more films like this are needed and that the film does a good job shining light on cockroaches, but I didn't find it nearly as involving as his previous film ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"), and I think that's partly because the filmmaker was maybe more interested in showing what a snake Abramoff was and less interested in showing the damage caused by Abramoff. I guess I would rank this one 3 1/2 out of 5.
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Review Details



K. Swanson

Location: Untied States

Top Reviewer Ranking: 772