Movie review: Casino Jack

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The thing about political dramas is that the viewers' politics are always going to color their perception.

Well, to paraphrase Michael Jackson, it don't matter if you're left or right. The clunky "Casino Jack" isn't going to please anyone.

"Jack" is the rise-and-fall tale of Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey), a D.C. lobbyist whose greed and hubris gave lobbyists an even worse name.

Along with his partner Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), Abramoff defrauds Native American tribes out of millions, pays off congressmen for votes and generally ruins democracy (and the careers of several rising politicians, including former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney).

Director George Hickenlooper - who died last year before the film's release - is saddled with a pompous and unnatural script and undercut with obnoxiously showy cinematography.

The supporting cast isn't top-notch talent, and it shows. Pepper is annoying and cloying, making Scanlon less sympathetic than he should have been. Other big names in the cast? Kelly Preston and Jon Lovitz. Yikes.

Possibly the only reason to see "Jack" is Spacey's performance. He's magnificently suited for the boisterous Abramoff, and the set-piece speeches actually play to his strengths. It's a performance reminiscent of his under-seen "Swimming with Sharks."

Still, it's hardly enough for a recommendation, even for a die-hard liberal salivating at watching Republicans get publicly embarrassed.

Casino Jack

Opens Friday

2 stars out of 4