The First Major Motion Picture in Which Someone Commits a Crime While Wearing a Brandeis Hat

While on vacation I watched the feature film version of “Casino Jack”- the one with Kevin Spacey, not the documentary of the same title, subject and year. I’m an Abramoff scandal buff, and I like all the actors, but yikes, what a mess.
The miscalculations are plentiful- from a silly monologue-in-the-mirror bit that opens and closes the movie to the device of Abramoff and others doing impressions of movie characters, which probably happened in real life but just dies on screen. The film also punts completely on the question of how Abramoff reconciled his Orthodox Judaism with his crimes.
And again: I can understand artistic license, but if you’re making a movie about events that occurred only three or four years ago, how about attempting to stick to what really happened? The unrealistic howlers are also plentiful- we see Abramoff making fun of Reagan for being senile, the sort of joke a hardcore right-winger like him would never make. His calling Bush an idiot? Writing a letter to Bill Clinton? Ridiculous.
Michael Scanlon at one point refers to himself as a lobbyist- when the entire scam between him and Abramoff hinged on Scanlon NOT being a lobbyist. And the movie leaves out my favorite detail of the scandal- that Abramoff laundered money through a fake think tank, located in a Rehobeth Beach beachhouse- even though there are multiple scenes where we see the beachhouse under construction.
The real story is compelling enough- why change it?
Spacey and Barry Pepper (playing Scanlon) are two actors I like a lot, but they play Abramoff and Scanlon as cartoon characters- I can’t imagine Scanlon could possibly have been THAT much of a douchebag. Jon Lovitz, as a mobbed-up accomplice, gives one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen, and I didn’t realize Grover Norquist, a man feared by the entire government, was a milquetoast errand boy.
The actor playing Tom DeLay looks nothing like DeLay but almost exactly like Jeb Bush- and the film for some reason invents a scene that implies DeLay is an anti-Semite. DeLay is a scoundrel and an evil, evil man, but I’ve never seen any indication that he doesn’t like Jews.
I hate to speak ill of the dead- director George Hickenlooper died around the time of the movie’s release- but there was a good reason nobody saw this.


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