Spacey stars in seriocomic potboiler

Casino Jack”

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for violence, brief nudity and pervasive profanity.

Running time: 108 Minutes

Studio: ATO Pictures

Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey) was a veteran Washington, DC lobbyist whose outrageous exploits made even members of his own shady profession blush. In the nineties, the services of the shameless attorney, along with those of his equally-unscrupulous business partner, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), were retained by seven different Native American tribes interested in opening gambling casinos on their reservations.

The notorious pair collected more than $100 million in fees by pretending to approach powerful politicians like President G.W. Bush (Brent Mendenhall) and Speaker of the House Tom DeLay (Spencer Garrett) on their behalf of their gullible clients. Truth be told, they were only playing the Indians off against each other in a case of corruption so flagrant it eventually caught the attention of the authorities

For Jack was a boorish bloviator predestined to meet with an ignominious end given his flamboyant lifestyle and his stabbing so many people in the back. And in 2006 he pled guilty to fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion, before he started serving a six-year sentence in Federal prison.

Directed by George Hickenlooper, Casino Jack offers a seriocomic take on all of the above. The picture stars Kevin Spacey, who plays the title character as more of a lovable rogue than a despicable figure deserving to be shunned by polite society. After all, Jack does have his plusses, such as being a big supporter of Israel and an observant, orthodox Jew who tries to stop his wife (Kelly Preston) from smoking on the Sabbath.

Still, the sleazy smooth operator seems oblivious of his own culpability to the very end, whether he’s lamenting an ill-advised liaison with the mob-connected, mattress salesman (Jon Lovitz) that brought down his empire or channeling Al Pacino (from “And Justice for All”) by yelling “You’re out of order!” at a judge during a climactic moment in a packed courtroom.

A revisionist history bio-pic, reminiscent of Charlie Wilson’s War, which recasts an arrogant influence-peddler behaving like he’s above the law as merely a bad-boy bon vivant with the best of intentions.

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