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George Hickenlooper
Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Kelly Preston, Jon Lovitz, Ruth Marshall, Graham Greene, Hannah Endicott-Douglas, Spencer Garrett
Writing Credits:
Norman Snider

Honor. Integrity. Principles. Everything is Negotiable.

Two-time Academy Award® Winner Kevin Spacey delivers a “bravura performance” (The New Yorker ) in this “uproarious, riveting and wickedly hilarious” (Elle) film inspired by a true story. Spacey stars as Jack Abramoff, the real-life Washington power player who resorted to jaw-dropping levels of fraud and corruption. High-rolling excess and outrageous escapades are all in a day’s work for Abramoff, as he goes to outrageous lengths to promote the Indian gambling industry, earning him the nickname “Casino Jack.” But when Jack and his womanizing protégé Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper) enlist a dimwitted business partner (Jon Lovitz) for an illegal scheme, they find themselves ensnared in a web of greed and murder that explodes into a worldwide scandal.

Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$34.528 thousand on 7 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.039 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/5/2011

• “Casino Jack: A Director’s Photo Diary”
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• Previews and Sneak Peeks


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Casino Jack [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2011)

Most movies that deal with public scandals tend to follow the documentary format, but 2010’s Casino Jack emerges as a standard feature film. It focuses on Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey), a super-connected DC lobbyist who represents Native American tribes and their casinos.

Abramoff’s colleague Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper) pushes Jack to go for the gusto, and he eventually agrees. This means they’ll shoot up their fees and split the money under the table. They go down a slippery slope of ever-growing greed and corruption until the inevitable happens and it all falls away from them.

I say “inevitable” because in this case, we know much of the ending from the beginning. When the movie starts, we see Abramoff in jail and heading toward prosecution, so it’s not a spoiler to indicate that the tale will go that way. Of course, anyone who followed the story will know this as well.

Not that any of it matters, for Casino gives us a “why and how they dunnit”, not a “who dunnit” or “what happened to them dunnit”. It also distances itself from the documentary format with its flashy style. Parts of it offer a somewhat stiff documentary feel, mostly during the first act, when the film shovels tons of exposition and explanation our way.

Otherwise, though, this becomes a big flashy movie for a big flashy tale, and it benefits from that. Casino prefers a larger than life feel, partially for entertainment value but also to give it the perspective of its main characters. The film shows Abramoff and Scanlon as guys who incessantly quoted movies and seemed to want to live the dreams they’d seen on the screen. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it fits the film and gives it a broadness that seems apt; if we’re going to follow a plot of epic greed, then we want things Big, Big, Big!

Spacey doesn’t chew scenery as Abramoff, but he certainly gives the role an extravagant turn that works. He avoids his usual smirking cynicism and invests Jack with a sense of self-importance and grandeur. Given the movie’s general cartooniness, that works.

Indeed, the film tends toward caricatures more than anything else, and that tone usually succeeds. Unfortunately, it means that the movie’s occasional attempts to get serious don’t work; we’re too involved with Jack and company as cartoons to dig into these more dramatic moments.

We don’t get bogged down with many of these misfires, though, as the filmmakers know better. The tone of Casino usually plays fast and loose, and that fits it. This allows the movie to crank across the screen and provide an engaging and entertaining tale of greed and corruption.

By the way, hang out through the end credits for some footage of the real Abramoff and others.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Casino Jack appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Overall, this was a positive image.

Only a smidgen of softness ever interfered with the presentation. I noticed a few slightly ill-defined shots, but most of the movie displayed solid clarity and delineation. Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also stayed away from this clean image.

In terms of palette, Jack went with tones affected by a teal impression during its “colder” scenes but tended to be fairly natural otherwise. Across the board, the hues looked well-displayed and full. Blacks showed good depth, while low-light shots boasted nice clarity. Though I thought the image was a little below “A”-level standards, it still was more than satisfying.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it gave us a decent little soundscape. Occasional scenes opened up the mix with elements like nightclubs or jets. Much of it stayed with general environmental material, but we got enough of the livelier scenes to add good pizzazz.

Audio quality was perfectly positive. Speech showed nice clarity and naturalism, and music was reasonably distinctive and dynamic. Effects offered solid accuracy and boasted good punch when necessary. All of this seemed worthy of a “B”.

Only a few extras appear. We get a Director’s Photo Diary that mixes pictures and text. It lets us see 44 shots, and director George Hickenlooper provides details about them. The comments are essentially captions, so don’t expect great depth, but they throw in some decent notes and complement the photos.

A Gag Reel lasts eight minutes, 25 seconds. It shows the standard roster of goofs and silliness – and a lot of it, as it’s awfully long for a piece of this sort. It’s average for its genre, though some of Kevin Spacey’s improvs add a little fun.

Five Deleted Scenes run a total of nine minutes, four seconds. We see an extended opening, more of Tom DeLay with the Harvard College Republicans, a longer look at Sprague as he bemoans his fate, a quick Jack freak-out, and little coda to Jack’s monologue to the mirror.

At the start of the disc, we get ads for Street Kings 2, Mao’s Last Dancer, Cedar Rapids and Black Swan. No trailer for Jack shows up here.

A story about a lobbyist sounds dull on the surface, but when it involves one as flashy – and greedy – as Jack Abramoff, it becomes eminently watchable. Casino Jack gives us an amusing cartoon take on its subjects that remains consistently entertaining. The Blu-ray comes with good picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. I’d like some more bonus materials – a documentary about the real Abramoff would’ve been nice – but the flick’s enjoyable enough to earn my recommendation.

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