CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY
Director: Alex Gibney
MPAA Rating: (for some language)
Running Time: 2:02
Release Date: 5/7/10 (limited); 5/14/10 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 13, 2010
Gibney's recounting of the Jack Abramoff case is as occasionally intriguing as
what boils down to a visual deposition can be. It invokes as much mild outrage as a presentation of lobbying gone wild
can. It's not exactly an
the same style and structure (start off with a bang, followed by talking heads
intercut with archival footage) and making a lot of the same arguments as his
exploration of the fraud perpetrated by smartest guys at Enron, Gibney lets the
facts bury the subjects of Casino Jack and
the United States of Money. One
can sense the filmmaker wanting to go for the throat. Whether it's a sense of journalistic objectivity (There are enough
argumentative shortcuts and party favoritism on display to truly consider that),
a fear of facing defamation claims, or a desire to stay in the favor of certain
interview subjects, a lot of tough questions go unanswered, simply because
Gibney doesn't seem to want to ask them.
a special breed of super-lobbyist whose only political interests seemed to be
the ones off of which he and his buddies (sounding like frat boys in
incriminating e-mails) could make money, is currently in prison for the criminal
intent and results of his lobbying techniques. The movie starts before the man's life of instigating pay-to-play
politics, in the fascinating dissection of the building of Abramoff's character.
parents were secular, and by combining his love of movies and pre-teen
rebellion, he decided to become an Orthodox Jew after watching Fiddler on the Roof. His
political outlook was inspired by the novels and movies espousing the theory
that Communist spies had infiltrated the United States. He and his more zealous friends in the College Republicans were the kind
of people who believed The Manchurian Candidate was based in reality (Which isn't a dead
concept, as listening to certain folks today, one might think the Cold War is
letting such things as tyranny and injustice get in the way, Abramoff helped
organize a meeting with shady "freedom fighters" against Communism.
started producing movies with funding from an apartheid-era South Africa, making
Red Scorpion, with Dolph Lundgren as a
Soviet soldier who discovers the error of his ways (The clips will make any
crap-movie fan drool with potential).
portrays a man of solid convictions based on shaky foundations, a man whose
friends include Ralph Reed, who envisioned a grassroots campaign to politically
activate evangelical Christians, and Grover Norquist. Norquist once stated that he doesn't want to abolish government; he
simply wants "to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the
bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
dreams are partially realized in a freer market, and Abramoff took full
advantage. Helping to keep a
sweatshop in Saipan that workers reported made them indentured servants open,
Abramoff flew Republican leaders to the city. The congressmen were less interested in the stories of the workers than
in the five-star hotel and many golf courses Abramoff showed them. Then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay visited and, when interviewed here,
still says he saw nothing wrong. A
member of Congress from the other side of the aisle speaks of talking to one of
the workers, who offered to sell his kidney to the congressman so he could pay
off his debt to his employer.
lets DeLay slide in his interview, even when he goes so far as to imply that
critics of the garment shop were lying (Gibney's inclusion of DeLay on a
television dancing show, which apparently can't even get C-list celebrities, is
a cheap shot, but one that perhaps might be the least he deserves). In spite of this, Gibney has no problem calling the resulting Saipan an
example of the free market in action. There's
no garment shop anymore, but the sex salve industry has skyrocketed.
movie's thorough examination of Abramoff's lobbying career is the stuff of
all-too familiar greed (although one interviewee dubs his story one of the human
flaw, which is a rough pill to swallow) and involves ripping off Native American
tribes to prevent other tribes from opening up a competing casino (Not the way
of the free market, now is it?), golf trips in corporate jets to Scotland, and a
Greek businessman killed in what seems a mob hit.
Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
Buy Related Products