Rated R for pervasive language, some violence and brief nudity, 108 minutes
Smooth Spacey performance in uneven Abramoff film "Casino Jack"
There's no doubting that infamous Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff was a colorful character, given that he was the center of a corruption scandal for which he just completed a prison sentence. Abramoff's dealings are detailed in the new dramedy "Casino Jack," a choppy, redundant film that's in need of a better editing job. What is certain is that Kevin Spacy gives another of his brilliantly self-assured performances as Abramoff, and he's the chief reason to see the film.
Abramoff's Washington D.C. lobbyist and secondary business career is the focus of the film, which included some gross excesses, mismanagement and corruption that brought him and many of his colleagues, including Michael Scanlon ("True Grit's" Barry Pepper) and his political connections, down. One of his main clients that he defrauded was the Saginaw Chippewas tribe of Michigan, from whom he took over $20 million to pay for his excesses. A federal investigation finds Abramoff guilty for taking bribes in exchange for political favors.
"Casino Jack" is a well-acted but uneven film that details a fascinating, colorful life with a bland annoyance and redundancy given that most probably already know the outcome of Abramoff's story. George Hicklenlooper, director of the Oscar-winning documentary "Hearts of Darkness," can't get a great handle on the material, and it lacks a certain emotional payoff that something like this should have.
Spacey's affecting turn as Abramoff is the most memorable about the choppy film, which is evident from his recent Golden Globe nomination for the film. The film's narrative jumps between different events (including Texas's own Tom DeLay) before it reaches a climax that most are aware of if they've read the news.
"Casino Jack" shouldn't be confused with the actual Abramoff documentary released earlier this year, "Casino Jack and the United States of Money," which is far more effective in detailing Abramoff's career than this film, which fictionalizes certain aspects of the story. Abramoff's less than stellar legacy could've been given a more interesting treatment than what "Casino Jack" gives it, though Spacey gives it his all.