Stacey paints a dizzying portrait of a charming cheat
In Casino Jack, Kevin Spacey gives an enjoyably hammy, grandstanding performance as Jack Abramoff, the crafty Washington, D.C., lobbyist who managed to build a mini-empire that included r...
In Casino Jack, Kevin Spacey gives an enjoyably hammy, grandstanding performance as Jack Abramoff, the crafty Washington, D.C., lobbyist who managed to build a mini-empire that included restaurants and offshore gambling enterprises before the FBI caught on to him and sent him to prison for conspiracy, tax evasion and fraud. Spacey, oozing snaky charm and a charismatic, if reprehensible, air of superiority, takes to the role with relish. He makes this anti-hero likable, even as he’s flagrantly breaking the law and scamming Native American tribes out of millions for political favors he has no intention of delivering.
But Casino Jack fails at its most critical mission: Laying out in clear detail exactly how and when Abramoff broke the law. Unlike last year’s documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, which clearly laid out the culture that bred lobbyists such as Abramoff and explained why they felt invincible, Casino Jack feels like a superficial gloss on a complex subject. The movie is more concerned with delivering another critical blow to the Bush administration and its hypocrisy: Tom DeLay, Karl Rove and Ralph Reed are all accounted for in the film, but anyone without a working knowledge of the case will have trouble connecting the dots. Abramoff’s crimes were probably too complex for the confines of a feature film as slick and eager to entertain as this one.
The movie is never boring, and there’s great fun in watching an energized, rakish Spacey cutting loose again. But the picture is a muddle: The broad humor often feels misplaced, the byzantine political shenanigans are confusing, and when the plot takes a sudden, violent turn, the change in tone is bewildering. Casino Jack is simply too ambitious for its own good, but Spacey’s turn as the flamboyant ringleader is a considerable pleasure.