The advertising for this film is a bit
misleading. If you see Kevin
Spacey sitting at a blackjack table playing against the house, you’re
under the impression that this is a movie about a casino gambler.
It’s not. It’s a
biopic about Jack Abramoff, the high-flying
lobbyist whose name became the epithet for influence peddling gone awry.
Usually we see Spacey play roles with
a cool demeanor, where his expressive visage conveys an enviable savior
faire. Surely the real Jack
Abramoff would have had to be someone who exuded confidence, who radiated
success, who attracted people to his smooth, cosmopolitan demeanor.
But Spacey plays this role with a pent-up vat of anger boiling inside
him, ready to explode at the slightest insult, or even a perceived slight.
He was going to show them all: his
critics, his doubters, any who would casually dismiss him as just another
lapel-smoother on the make.
His beautiful wife, Pam (Kelly
Preston) pretends she doesn’t know what’s happening, but she’s more
than eager to enjoy the trappings of her suddenly-successful husband’s
economic prosperity. He did, in
fact, develop access to powerful people in
, including Tom DeLay, then-Speaker of the House (since indicted and
convicted for illegally channeling campaign funds).
Abramoff was not afraid to peddle that influence to assure people
that he could get “their” legislation passed, “their” issue heard,
and he was happy to accept hefty “consulting” fees, much of which he
would then kick back to the congressmen (and these were all men)----welcome
cash in plain envelopes, slipped quietly into the inside jacket pocket.
It’s not exactly a documentary, but
neither is it a loose novella “based” on facts---these escapades are
presented as the facts. In this
version, Abramoff’s main vice was deluding himself into thinking he was a
philanthropist---he would contribute exaggerated sums to certain (Jewish)
charities, considering himself an altruist, but defining his self-importance
by the level of his grandiosity. But
his main accomplice, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper) was not nearly so
self-aggrandizing. He was
caught up in the usual greed: expensive
vacations, willing beautiful girlfriends (though he was married), plush
surroundings-----but it was one of the jilted, indignant girlfriends who
blew the whistle on him---called the FBI and became an informant.
And the whole house of cards came tumbling down.
Abramoff, of course, insists to the
end that he was merely doing what everybody else was, he was just doing it
better (the classic Bill Gates Microsoft monopoly defense).
He tried to distance himself from the layers of people he thought he
put between himself and an opponent that he wanted “neutralized.”
But in the end, he was just another thug who got caught, leaving
plenty of angry and embarrassed and cuckolded people in his wake.
“Casino Jack,” indeed. Playing
against the house with the house’s own money, and taking everyone else for
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace