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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Overcast
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Casino Jack jazzes up the Jack Abramoff story
A lobbyist's rise and fall
on
Spacey as the disgraced K-Street conman.
Spacey as the disgraced K-Street conman.

Casino Jack moves with such manic determination it all but reaches out from the screen and shakes you by the collar: "See, movies about lobbyists can be fun!" It's all so "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can" that eventually I just gave in - from sheer exhaustion, really - and mostly enjoyed the late George Hickenlooper's dramatization of the sensational rise and then super-splat of K-Street conman Jack Abramoff.

Perhaps Hickenlooper felt so much razzmatazz was required to keep viewers hooked into a members-only Washington scandal. He needn't have worried, not with "you can't make this up, folks!" plot points like Mafia whackings, offshore sweatshops and a spurned Native American community leader who goes off the reservation and right into a Senate hearing as a material witness in the case against Abramoff. While the film doesn't absolve the disgraced lobbyist, it does go to great pains to paint him as a family man and man of faith, despite the curious and rather sordid company he keeps.

Kevin Spacey, as Abramoff, has some springy moments as a goof quoting movies at inopportune times, and as a shark prowling the waters for his next moneymaking venture. Despite his character's fondness for mugging like Michael Corleone, Spacey can't quite catch the operatic wallop of Corleone's arc, possibly because the film is played top-to-bottom like a caprice.

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