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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Casino Jack: The United States of Money

Even if you followed the tawdry case of disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, you may not have realized he was once a producer of B-movies. Alex Gibney, the filmmaker behind this documentary about the rise and fall of perhaps the greediest sumbitch to ever walk down K Street, shows us the evidence of that abandoned career and points out an irony. Abramoff, a lover of schlock action-adventure movies, is now the subject of, in Gibney's words, a "dreary documentary."

Far from being dreary, this flick nearly forced your Coke Zero'd-up critic to lose control of her bladder as she tried to find a lull in which she could excuse herself.

But, Gibney's movies tend to have that effect on her. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side (about how the Bush administration concocted reasons to start a war with Iraq) are among his previous credits.

This time, Congress and its pay-to-play structure (especially under the leadership of exterminator-turned-Congressman Tom DeLay) are Gibney's targets. Most of the players tarnished by Abramoff are GOP legislators. But, plenty of Dems took his money, too. Patrick Kennedy, Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Harry Reid are among the recipients of Abramoff's ill-gotten gains.

DeLay appears on camera extensively, as does the convicted former Rep. Bob Ney. Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist are prominently featured, although not interviewed.

Neither is the subject of the movie himself, although we see him and hear his words throughout. Several people express genuine shock at the emails Abramoff sent, which characterized his native American clients as buffoons, dimwits and jackasses. This, after collecting tens of millions in fees from them.

This movie isn't just a smear job -- although Abramoff wouldn't appear to deserve much more. The filmmaker digs deep to try to uncover what led Abramoff from being an earnest leader of the college Republicans to a felon.

The movie makes it seem as if there's a very fine line between being a true believer to your cause and being a pimp for it. See it.

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