(No longer in theaters)
May 7, 2010
Casino Jack is audience-friendly without turning into a Michael Moore–ish clown show. The surprise is Abramoff, who in old footage looks like someone you might break challah with. “He could charm a dog off a meat truck,” says an ex-pal. A born-again Jew after watching Fiddler on the Roof, Abramoff knew it wasn’t a matter of if but when he’d be a rich man biddy-biddy-boom. In this he bonded with fellow Young Republican and born-again Christian Ralph Reed, who saw the potential for merging his two gospels: the New Testament and Atlas Shrugged. “Free market at last, free market at last … !”
How the devil did Gibney score interviews with Tom DeLay, Bob Ney (who, at Abramoff’s behest, inserted a condemnation of Boulis in the Congressional Record “apropos nothing”), and other good Republicans? Did the gold of his Oscar lure them in? The well-nailed Ney looks properly sheepish, but the Hammer still mists up when recalling the Marianas Islands, with their championship golf courses, absence of regulations, and abundance of sex slaves.
Gibney goes a mite easy on John McCain, seen grilling Abramoff over venal e-mails re gulling Native Americans while carefully avoiding implicating his House and Senate colleagues. But Gibney does finally kick the focus off Abramoff to bemoan the legalized-bribery system that’s the rule, not the exception. Demon lobbyist Abramoff got four years, less than New York kids caught selling four ounces of marijuana—and only then because those e-mails done him in. For today’s young free-enterprisers, Casino Jack might be less a cautionary tale than a recruiting poster.