Casino Jack

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -3

Kevin Spacey. Crime/bio/drama. Written by Norman Snider. Directed by George Hickenlooper.

FILM SYNOPSIS: In this dramatic biopic, Jack Abramoff is a likeable, amoral rogue able to roll with the highest of shakers, all-the-while scheming with fraudulent antics in order to get what he wants. Aided by his business partner Michael Scanlon, Jack parlays his clout over some of the world's most powerful men with the goal of creating a personal empire of wealth and influence. When the two enlist a mob-connected buddy to help with one of their illegal schemes, they soon find themselves in over their heads, entrenched in a world of mafia assassins, murder and a scandal that makes worldwide headlines.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Peppered with crude and profane language, the film and performances grate like nails on a chalkboard for those of us who still wince at such screen excess. Mr. Spacey is, as always, interesting to watch. He digs into a role, finding some humanity despite the characterís despicable deeds. In this case, the jury is out (figuratively) concerning Abramoffís motives. Is he just a crooked wheeler-dealer, or is he mentally incapable of understanding the difference between right and wrong? Spacey keeps us guessing.

The film becomes extremely political, heavy-handedly so. For example, whenever something happens, like a car crashing into a newspaper rack, George W. Bushís picture is on the front page, implying his possible connection to the crime. The filmmaker talks about Republican bad-doing, and then inserts visuals to make the point Ė over and over.

But had Jack Abramoff been as connected with the Democratic party as he is here with Republican bigwigs, would this film have been made? Would Kevin Spacey have taken the role? Iím looking over the films of this year Ė or, any year, for that matter Ė and Iím finding it impossible to find a major studio release that threatened the security of the Left side of the political aisle. Iím sure Democrats would argue, ďWell, where thereís smoke, thereís fire.Ē

Itís hard to argue with points being made in films like Inside Job, which expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The filmmakers took a fair amount of swings at the Bush Administration for economic decisions that made some Wall Street execs tremendously rich while nearly bringing down our nationís economy. In fairness, Inside Job doesnít hold George Bush alone responsible for the economic meltdown. Some swipes were taken at President Obama, as well. But I assure you, this political balance was not a trend.

Punches were thrown at the Bush administration even in the dramady I Love You Philip Morris, about Steven Russell, who came out of the closet, leaving his wife and child in order to find happiness in the gay community. To support his lovers, Russell found ways of committing fraud and was able to escape from the Texas prison system on four separate occasions, assume other identities and successfully get his gay lover/cellmate released. Iím not sure what the point of the film was, other than to Bush-bash. You see, according to the film, the state of Texas was embarrassed by Steven Russellís ability to escape from prison. And since George Bush was then governor, he surely was to blame for what the film is proclaiming to be incompetency on the part of the penal system. The movie insinuates that George W. wanted Russell to be punished for the embarrassment, and therefore saw to it that he was sentenced to life. Iím sure the fact that Steven Russell was a habitual criminal had nothing to do with his sentence.

Before we go on, this is no defense of the Republican party. Itís merely making the point that whenever Hollywood gets political, it also does so with a viciousness that resembles witch hunting. I find this ironic, because members of the entertainment community look distastefully upon the 1950s as a time when the members of Congress were asking ďAre you or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?Ē You see, the Left in Hollywood doesnít like witch hunting, unless you are hunting Christians or conservatives. Hey, Iím making my assessment after films viewed. When you write me, include an example of a movie from this past decade that belittled, truly belittled, a democrat. Or donít write me.

Now Iím going to do something only ďliberalsĒ are supposed to do Ė be balanced.

Fair Game is the type of dirty tricks exposť a political wildcatter like Sean Penn lives to make. And while I often disagree with them, it is necessary for us to have the Sean Penns defy those in charge of our political system. Letís face it, our nationís capital can be a corruptible machine and very often those most trusted turn out to be the most corruptible. Having members of the media keep a close eye on those in charge of Americaís destiny is important. Like an abrasive cleanser, the artistic activist serves a purpose.

But while Fair Game is thought-provoking, it is also cynical and snappish. And like the political thrillers of Oliver Stone, where I often feel Iím getting a perspective rather than the facts, I was left wondering how a scene showing the Bush administration dressed in devil costumes for a Halloween party got left out.

So many storytellers aligned with left-wing radical philosophies tend to become militant in their agenda. In Fair Game, director Doug Liman stealthily proposes that George W and his cabinet are political bogeymen responsible for the attempted character assignation of an innocent couple in order to achieve governmental objectives. Was Mr. Liman truly exposing an evil deed? Then, bravo. But why has no film been made to cause us to question the Leftís activities?

Are there really no left-leaning powers-that-be equally corruptible and corrupted? How about that Democrat congressman caught with a huge amount of unaccountable loot in his freezer? Charlie Rangle gets censured for not paying taxes while others do time for the same crime (think Wesley Snipes). Or, how about the present regimeís promise to keep things transparent? Still think thatís happening?

These folks never seem to find their way into a Hollywood screenplay because media left-leaners hypocritically support their political allies, believing them to be is pure of heart, allowing truth to be sacrificed for an agenda. Isnít that their problem with the tactics of their opponents?

By now, some may be asserting that this is not a film review. Well, this isnít so much a movie as it is an exercise in political self-gratification. We get half truths from most politicos and nearly all filmmakers. Beware. Not satisfied with being our modern-day court jesters, many members of the entertainment industry have taken it upon themselves to inflict their take on political, social, and religious standards, three subjects of which moviefolk believe they instinctively know all there is to know.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
ATO Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Several crude and suggestive sexual remarks.

Obscene Language: At least 80 uses of the f-word, with nearly an equal amount of other combined obscenities.

Profanity: Twelve profane uses of Godís name.

Violence: An assassin shoots and kills a man at close range. Blood: Some blood.

Sex: Sexual situations

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Drug and alcohol use

Other: None

Running Time: 108 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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