What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this humorous biopic about convicted fraudster/"superlobbyist" Jack Abramoff ( Kevin Spacey) is rife with foul language, including the pervasive use of "f--k." There's one brief scene of violence -- a stabbing, with blood -- and some nudity (breasts); some secondary characters also sleep with multiple women. Jack is an entertaining character, but the movie isn't celebrating his bad behavior: He's very much presented as a bad guy. Note: A similarly titled documentary about Abramoff -- Casino Jack and the United States of Money -- was released earlier in 2010.
What's the story?
Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey) is a "superlobbyist" in Washington D.C. who has connections and influences all over town. As CASINO JACK begins, he's conning Native American tribes out of millions of dollars in exchange for his services. He and his partner, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), also become involved with a small-time, mafia-connected hood (Jon Lovitz) and some floating casinos. Abramoff brags about using these profits to open restaurants and schools, but he always seems to be running low on cash -- and always looking for the next scam. Eventually, Abramoff and Scanlon go too far, and their high-priced world begins to tumble down around them.
Is it any good?
The biggest asset in Casino Jack is Spacey, who plays Abramoff as the cynical, snappy type of character he made so memorable in American Beauty. Spacey is clearly enjoying every manic moment here (throwing in the occasional celebrity impression to boot), and the screenplay by Norman Snider does a nice job of feeding his frenzy. There isn't much room for others in this kind of one-man show, but Lovitz gets in some nice moments as the sleazy, small-time hood.
Director George Hickenlooper -- who passed away in October of 2010 -- can't quite fine-tune the movie into the tight comedy it should have been; it's a little uneven in places and a little wobbly in others. But to its credit, the movie gambles on a really nasty lead character and doesn't bother trying to make him "likeable." The movie knows that Abramoff is a terrible person and allows the audience to know that, too. The trick is that Jack doesn't know it. Overall, it's an interesting, funny, and irreverent portrait of our troubled times.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about whether Abramoff is a likeable character. Is he a good or a bad person? Does that affect how likeable he is?
Why might we be interested in watching characters like Abramoff? How does he justify his behavior to himself? Did you want to see him punished -- or get away scot free?