Once upon a time, most movies had compelling plots, engaging characters, beautiful cinematography and thrilling screenplays. Unfortunately, those factors are all too uncommon today. “Casino Jack,” is proof of that sad situation.
In fact, “Casino Jack” has flat characters, a confused, boring plot and lame dialogue.
It didn’t have to be this way.
“Casino Jack,” relates how one case of political corruption led to murder. Strangely, it does so as a comedy.
The film purports to tell the true story of high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff, convicted of financial shenanigans for essentially bribing federal officials and defrauding his clients, including several tribal casinos.
You would think a film about shady politicians eager to line their pockets would be especially timely. Director George Hickenlooper manages to turn an interesting story into dull left-wing conspiratorial fodder. Instead of just relating the events, with a little twist here or there, we’re hit over the head with the director’s political views, with plenty of overreaching, preaching and infantilizing the audience.
Who are the enemies here? Republicans, conservative Christians and orthodox Jews, of course. People who claim to hold their religious beliefs dear to them are portrayed universally as corrupt hypocrites.
We’re reminded of Abramoff’s religion in nearly every scene. We hear his opinion about the play “Fiddler on the Roof,” see Jewish prayer objects, listen to his demand for kosher food in federal prison, learn about his desire to open a Jewish school and watch Abramoff lead a religious study group among, other irrelevancies.
Christians fare nearly as badly. One senator eager for his share of barely-disguised bribes has his preacher close at hand for an impromptu prayer session when the jig is up.
Instead of presenting a story about a man paid to communicate who fails to understand his own faith’s message, we get a film slamming the viewer with a politically correct theme – namely, that Republicans, conservatives, lobbyists and George Bush are all (a) evil and (b) stupid.
The producers don’t only belittle religious believers. A Greek immigrant character is portrayed as a violent crazed simpleton. One of the two Italian-Americans is hugely fat and in one scene, slurps spaghetti, with most of it hanging down his chin. Both Italians are in the Mafia, murdering a man without a second thought.
It doesn’t help that “Casino Jack,” is so poorly written, with unbelievable characters engaging in ridiculous actions.
The screenplay is penned as if the story was a comedy – though a very unfunny one. The result is a broad tale with absolutely no subtlety or nuance, but nothing to laugh at either.
Even the film’s score is wretched.
Kevin Spacey, who portrays Abramoff, was recently nominated for a Golden Globe award for his acting in this film. I have a feeling it was more for publicizing certain political views than actual admiration for his performance.
The only acting worth noting was Jon Lovitz who plays Adam Kidan, a corrupt mattress salesman sucked into Abramoff’s scheme. In one strangely funny scene, he ends up abused with a ballpoint pen by an enraged owner of a tawdry casino. He manages to be amusing, believable and oddly sympathetic.
If you believe Republicans and religious believers are corrupt crackpots, you’ll enjoy this film. Otherwise stay home and wait for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” on cable.