The inner workings of government have often been compared to the inner workings of a sausage factory, as you don’t want to see how either gets made. But when our officials get deep in the muckraking and the callous rule-breaking, we can’t help but be fascinated (if slightly repulsed). When they go too far and get caught, it can be even more tantalising, (whether the intentions were true, or just for personal gain). In 2010, the chronicle of the fall of one of the hottest lobbyists around was dramatised, in the ultimate film of George Hickenlooper in Casino Jack.
Casino Jack chronicles the see-it-to-believe-it tale of convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, who with the coercion of Casino operatives attempted to defraud and corrupt various officials in Washington. The film chronicles the hotshot lobbyist and his subsequent fall from grace. In a so prominent that it brought him down and multiple prominent figures in the government, as we follow the scheme from origin to the curtain call, the downfall of Casino Jack.
From the offset, I can say that it makes the intricacies of interstate gaming and the complicated legality of gambling law interesting enough for the layman. For those not in the know of legal machinations, the complicated legal topics are handled informally, with hefty doses of humour and a dash of ironic irrelevance. Much in the style that Adam McKay will become famous for in the future. Many shots consist of phone calls on yachts and duplicitous dealings, almost reminiscent of the Wolf of Wall Street. Hickenlooper certainly knew how to make the medium work with such a fascinating story.
With audiences clamouring for more conflicted (for lack of a better term) protagonists, and seek the blunt and insider-like realisations about their worst fears about politics. This comes to the audience, in the shape of Jack Abramoff. He has a knack for walking through the intricacies of Capitol Hill with the amoral, matter-of-fact style. With Jack even launching into a tirade towards the end does feel very reminiscent of Frank Underwood from House of Cards, doubly so considering who dons the role of Jack. Outside of politics, Jack has a fondness for 80s action films, owing to his early work in Hollywood and cowboy hats. John Lovitz also appears as Adam Kidan, and his presence is more than appreciated, as comedy is strongly in his wheelhouse and seeing technically playing the straight man solidifies his talents.
George Hickenlooper’s ultimate film is an intriguing piece, steeped in the allure of politicking and the shady dealings in the halls of Capitol Hill, yet presented wittily to help the legal issues go down a lot easier. Not quite a biopic, not sure if entirely true, but certainly entertaining nonetheless. Confident in the lead’s ability, while offering enough razzmatazz to feel like you’re being taken in by the man himself, Casino Jack is an arguably cynical look about a system that arguably deserves its wry scrutiny. We might not like how the sausage is made, but we do like the end product nonetheless, especially when the butcher gets caught.
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