Casino Jack: Hollywood’s Version

Casino Jack written by Noman Snider and directed by George Hickenlooper
Rating **** 1/2

At the very beginning of this movie is the tag “inspired by true events,” which usually means that very little of what you are about to see is factual. But after just watching the excellent documentary also named Casino Jack, written and directed by Alex Gibney, I concluded that the tag was meant for legal purposes. If you happen to watch the documentary, you’ll see that the filmmakers do an excellent job of retelling the story as it happened.

Kevin Spacey plays Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who gets too greedy and ends up in prison, but not before taking a couple of congressman with him. This is probably one of Kevin Spacey’s best roles. He gets to use all of his skills in this film, including his many impressions.

Having watched the documentary, I was interested in how Hollywood was going to muck-up the story. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that they stuck to the facts where it mattered and only took a few liberties. There’s humor in the film, but this is not a comedy. Most of what you see actually happened.

While the documentary and movie version covered the same story and characters, there was one discrepancy between the two versions. In the documentary, it was a competing lobbyist that gave the indian leaders and the Washington Post reporter information about the scam Abramoff and Michael Scanlon was running. In the movie version, it was a scorned girlfriend of Scanlon that went to the Washington Post. I’m thinking that the documentary was closer to the truth.

This film and the documentary are two great films to see back to back, especially right now with all that is going on in Washington. Grover Norquist’s malfeasance is only hinted at in the film, but you can read between the lines. I don’t know how many of the tea party Republicans were elected thanks to the help of special interests, but I’m guessing that most of them were. And it’s those same special interests that are causing political upheaval right now. These two films give some insight as to why we are where we are.

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