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Review: Casino Jack (**1/2)

Though drastically uneven, and consistently struggles to find a stagnant tone, Casino Jack is a well acted and entertaining picture directed by the late George Hickenlooper. The film casts Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff, a notorious and dubious lobbyist from Washington DC. With the film being based on true events it must evidently document Abramoff’s rise and fall (in the films case it shows this period over a span of two years). By now most of you know that he was sent to jail for reasons ranging from fraud to tax evasion, and director Hickenlooper does a good job of showing those consequences without a political agenda.

Spacey gives one of his best performances in recent memory, as he somehow makes this truly unlikable character, sympathetic. And though what Abramoff did in real life could never be condoned, Spacey’s character most certainly could. Barry Peppers does a solid job playing in the films words “Abramoff’s evil twin”. Kelly Preston as well, gives a nice supporting role as the wife who reminds Jack not to get in too deep with these crook deals (he should’ve listen, eh?). Still, the great performances that add some nice emotional and comical flourishes, can’t save the films inevitable incoherent and sporadic tone as the picture spirals out of control, trying to infuse serious melo-drama with parodies of other films.

Casino Jack, through thick and thin, has a hard time figuring out its purpose. As an entertaining bit of escapism, it works. As a bio-picture of this unethical though rather interesting man, it misses the mark. This is a perfect example of a film that contains brilliance, but somehow ends up nowhere near it. Kevin Spacey’s performance is truly special and that alone is worth the watch. Sadly, the pictures plot structure, and inconsistent political narrative, drags down the final product. Conclusively only one statement could truly be justified (and or fit) for this film: Casino Jack, unlike its protagonist, should’ve taken more risks, in almost every considerable area.

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