Casino Jack Movie Review: Political Porn In The Raw

142

When investigative doc director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room) embarked on his expose of Capitol Hill crook Jack Abramoff, it wasn’t just the daunting task of tapping into the convicted lobbyist’s nearly mile long rap sheet for a mere two hour movie. There was also the challenge facing audience gripes that nobody watches nonfiction movies. So Gibney did the next best thing, he crafted Casino Jack: The United States Of Money as a brand new hybrid – the action documentary. Which wasn’t difficult to do at all, since Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up.

There’s the Miami mob style hit of an offshore gambling tycoon rival for starters, that Abramoff has long been suspected of engineering. Then, his 2006 plea deal incarceration for the corruption of public officials, and defrauding American Indian tribes across the country in casino scams.

Add to that his additional 2008 conviction along with an assortment of DC hotshots, for trading gifts, meals and sports junkets for political favors, doing the dirty work of pols for them so they wouldn’t have to. And, financial conspiracies involving Asian factory worker slavery and sex trafficking on Pacific Islands; suspect collusion with the right wing Citizens For America, linked to support for the Contras in Nicaragua, Afghan anti-Soviet fundamentalist fighters, the apartheid government in South Africa and even possibly the Iraq invasion, and there’s already a built-in thriller guaranteed to neutralize even the most sedentary talking heads onscreen yawner.

Perhaps this is because Gibney gets more than a little help from what could be viewed as his ghost writer collaborator, Abramoff himself. Who as a once aspiring Hollywood filmmaker for a decade in the 1980s, dredged up the Dolph Lundgren anti-Soviet schlock epic Red Scorpion. And judging from the megalomaniac outing, mind blowing sheer scope of Casino Jack, drops hints that helming a film can induce a delusional sense of power, leading to an impulse to move on and script the world.

Of course the notion of legal bribery and corruption at the highest levels in this country is nothing new. But Gibney’s obsession in sparing no details and exposing every odious shred of evidence possible through the criminal exploits precipitated by one man, is a little like say, astounding political porn in the raw. Not to mention a peek into one of the most eccentric when not thoroughly evil men in America, including Abramoff’s mystical embrace of Orthodox Judaism after watching Fiddler On The Roof.

In any case, move over Tea Party revelers. One of the most fascinating sidebars in Casino Jack is Abramoff’s bid to organize a reactionary macho posse of conservative college Republicans in the 1970s, mimicking the left lingo and militant attitude of 60s rebels. And the sprouting of a mega-scam Abramoff dubbed the Favor Factory, casting himself in his own reality show as a lobbyist with a perpetual smirk and a Blackberry in each hand. Until caught up as a villain in somebody else’s movie, all the way to the federal pen in Maryland.

Magnolia Pictures

Unrated

3 1/2 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.