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DVD Review: Casino Jack

April 26, 2011

Casino Jack – An eOne Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: April 26th, 2010

Rated 14A for coarse language

Running time: 108 minutes

George Hickenlooper (dir.)

Norman Snider (writer)

Jonathan Goldsmith (music)

Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff

Barry Pepper as Michael Scanlon

Jon Lovitz as Adam Kidan

Graham Greene as Bernie Sprague

Our reviews below:


Casino Jack DVD Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Directed by the late George Hickenlooper, Casino Jack tells the true story of high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey) and his sleazy assistant, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper).  Receiving money to persuade politicians to vote in favour of special interest groups, this is the same story told in the recent documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money.

Norman Snider’s script is sharp and witty, allowing for some surprising dark humour in the most unlikely places.  Casino Jack does drag at uneven points during the inflated 108-minute running time, but it is kept afloat by the strong cast and excellent leading work from Kevin Spacey.  For me, the film never reaches a level of greatness, but it is worth a look on DVD for those interested in the story.

The Blu-ray includes a gag reel, deleted scenes, and a photo diary with director George Hickenlooper, who sadly passed away on October 29th, 2010.


Casino Jack DVD Review by Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

Casino Jack is inspired by the true story of ‘super-lobbyist’ Jack Abramoff, who used fraud to make money through promotion of the gambling industries, among other things.  Through their schemes, Jack and his partners found themselves ever deeper into the web of illegal activity…

I liked this one and would consider it at least worth a rental.  It may feel a little long for some at almost two hours, but Kevin Spacey’s performance makes it worth seeing.  It will likely hold more interest to those that are familiar with ‘Casino Jack’s’ story, although it is watchable on its own as well.  There was also a documentary last year about Jack Abramoff, called Casino Jack and the United States of Money, and after seeing Casino Jack, you might be interested in checking the doc out as well for another look at the story.


Casino Jack DVD Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Casino Jack tells the true story of political lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  Jack (Kevin Spacey) makes his living making deals with Washington for special interest groups like the Aboriginal gambling industry.  Problems really begin when Jack and his buddy Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper) become really greedy, paying huge consolting fees in order to negotiate deals with politicians.

If you aren’t already familiar with the history behind the film, then you will likely be a bit confused.  However, Casino Jack has really good acting and dialogue, and is worth seeing for that reason alone.  For those familiar with the story, this is a great film about the inner workings of the political world.


Casino Jack DVD Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Stories about high-powered and ridiculously overpaid Washington lobbyists make for interesting drama and, in the case of Casino Jack, comedy.  Based on the true story of Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey) and his business protege Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), Casino Jack follows the men as they wheel and deal to lobby on behalf of the American Indian gambling industry.  Along the way a lot of money changes hands, ethical and legal lines get crossed and eventually the two find themselves as guests of the federal penitentiary system.

This is one of those films where it helps to know Jack Abramoff’s actual story from earlier news coverage.  Otherwise the story is only moderately interesting.  What makes Casno Jack worth recommending are the outstanding performances of the cast.  Kevin Spacey handles the drama and the lighter comic side of the character especially well.  Casino Jack is certainly worth a rental for those with an interest in Abramoff’s story or fans of the lead actors, particularly Kevin Spacey.


Casino Jack DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Casino Jack is a slightly fictionalized account of the high-flying career of K Street lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey), not to be confused with the concurrent documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money. By charging exorbitant fees to rival native casinos, Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper) could support interests in outsourced sweatshops and other questionable causes with generous contributions and junkets for sympathetic legislators such as Tom DeLay (Spencer Garrett).

Abramoff used his fortune to invest in expensive Kosher restaurants and a private Hebrew school but mainly to support his wife (Kelly Preston) and five kids who have stuck by him through his subsequent incarceration. The younger Scanlon sunk his money into restoring a derelict Delaware mansion and philandering, leading to ultimate betrayal by his wife (Rachelle Lefevre). When an attempted takeover backed by shady businessman Adam Kidan (Jon Lovitz) of a fleet of offshore casino boats led to a mob hit on its Greek-born owner (Daniel Kash), things fell apart quickly, and Abramoff found himself in Senate hearings, defiant as usual.

Though I have not had the opportunity to compare Casino Jack to its documentary counterpart, it apparently is faithful to the actual story, brilliantly brought to life by the late director George Hickenlooper. I only realized at the end that it was beautifully shot mainly in my home town of Hamilton ON. Despite the seriousness of the subject, there is a lot of humour, much of it crude, supported by a jazzy score from Jonathan Goldsmith featuring a Swingle-style scat choir. The best thing about Casino Jack is the fine cast working the well-written script. Spacey and Pepper are excellent as expected, but I was most moved by Maury Chaykin in one of his last screen appearances adding his own brilliance as always to a brief role as a mobster.


Consensus: Centred on political lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Casino Jack is anchored by a sharp script and an excellent performance from Kevin Spacey, but the 108-minute running time may feel long for those unfamiliar with the true story.  *** (Out of 4)

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