"Casino Jack" is the story of a government scandal, something we've become quite used to in this country. It was George Hickenlooper's last film. I'm not sure if the distribution was limited, but this movie lost money big time, and it didn't cost that much to start. There is also a documentary on this same subject.
Kevin Spacey stars as Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist turned criminal, as if what he was doing wasn't criminal enough, though legal. The film also features Barry Pepper, Jon Lovitz, Rachel Lefevre, Kelly Preston, and Maury Chaykin.
Abramoff (Spacey), who was staying within legal bounds as a lobbyist, gets greedy and with his business partner Mike Scanlon (Pepper) starts taking exorbitant fees from various Indian tribes supposedly to help them with their casino businesses. Of course, these were rival casinos and besides the fact that he was taking more than the legal limit of money, it was conflict of interest to work for several tribes. Abramoff uses the money to open restaurants, a school for Jewish children, buy a fabulous home, all kinds of things.
The idea behind lobbying is that special interest groups - say, an Indian casino, pays a lobbyist who in turn pays congressmen to help smooth the way for the special interest via passage of laws, getting licensing, things of that sort. I don't know, I would call those bribes. Washington calls it lobbying. In one scene, Abramoff flies a bunch of politicos someplace and shows them a good time. We pay for that, by the way.
When a front man is needed, Abramoff turns to a mattress salesman (Lovitz) to help make a deal. Major, major trouble is the result. Abramoff ultimately is under investigation, his good friend, Senator Tom Delay, has to resign from the Senate, and the subpoenas start coming.
Kevin Spacey is excellent as the confident, charming, aggressive Abramoff, who thinks he has a lot of friends in high places. It's a big performance. Someone commented that they saw Abramoff interviewed and he seemed quite different from Spacey. Well, Abramoff was in prison at the time and I imagine by then he was quite different. Spacey met him and I have to assume picked up some characteristics from him. Barry Pepper is also top notch as the sleazy Mike Scanlon, whose massive infidelities cause a huge problem for both himself and Abramoff.
Jon Lovitz I think was miscast. How could anyone think this idiot could make a huge business deal? The character should have at least seemed like he could do a deal of that nature. The way Lovitz played it, no one would take him seriously - and that includes Abramoff.
This is a pretty sobering look at how our government is run, and frankly, it sucks. When Abramoff is supposed to testify before a committee, he fantasizes calling the committee a bunch of hypocrites. He was right. To hell with the public interest, where's my money.