Sunday, July 24, 2011

#164: Casino Jack

Director George Hickenlooper's final film before his departure is a movie based on true events that will interest you with it's brisk start. In this 2010 release, Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey) portrays a lobbyist in Washington D.C., well known in the political circles whose perimeter extends even upto the U.S. President. In it's essence, it might remind you Thank you for Smoking because of it's storyline that revolves around this flamboyant lobbyist.

Abramoff prides himself on his vocation and makes no bones about his connections. If anything, he is boastful. With his partner Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), he's makes one big investment bet on a casino that seems too good to be true. His upside is immense but he doesn't cover his risks, gets in a lousy partner in Adam Kidan (Jon Lovitz) for the venture and on the way to the top brushes a particular Indian tribe the wrong way. All the hard work Abramoff had put in to reach the stellar heights in Washington come to nought when due to his partner's carelessness, the FBI gets wind of the wrongdoing and from there on it's all downhill for Abramoff.

It is a character arc oft-repeated in many movies and in the case of Casino Jack, it seems a bit too predictable. The supporting cast of Abramoff's wife that could've been used as a device for the audience to sympathise with Jack suffers because of lack of intent. Kevin Spacey is an actor par excellence but as Jack Abramoff he doesn't have any magic moments. The actor's found playing catch up with a script whose rhythm never missed a beat but lacked the right note. In spite of some dynamic scenes, the writing is broadly staid and as an audience it only makes us react and doesn't go all out in involving us with the protagonist's feelings.

Where Casino Jack scores is the first half an hour as the story is being setup. As Jon Lovitz's character arrives, the movie is positioned for an interesting denouement but it fails to capitalize on the first act of the movie. In the end, one doesn't feel sympathetic towards Abramoff and that I suspect must've been one of the objectives of writer Norman Snider- something that failed to cut ice with me as a viewer. Kevin Spacey earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance eventually losing to Paul Giamatti for Barney's Version. In an almost uncanny way, it resembles the story of Casino Jack's life as a movie.

Rating: 5.7/10

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