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Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010)

A probing investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Himself - Lobbyist (archive footage)
Melanie Sloan ...
Herself - Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Nina Easton ...
Herself - Author, Gang of Four
Dana Rohrabacher ...
Himself - Representative, California
Thomas Frank ...
Himself - Author, The Wrecking Crew
J. Michael Waller ...
Himself - Director, Institute of World Politics
Ralph Reed ...
Himself - Republican Activist (archive footage)
Grover Norquist ...
Himself - Republican Activist (archive footage)
Jonas Savimbi ...
Himself - UNITA Rebel Leader, Angola (archive footage)
Lewis E. Lehrman ...
Himself - Financier, The Democratic International (archive footage) (as Lewis Lehrman)
Neil Volz ...
Himself - Former Chief of Staff to Rep. Bob Ney
Bob Ney ...
Himself - Representative, Ohio
Susan Schmidt ...
Herself - Former Reporter, The Washington Post
Robert G. Kaiser ...
Himself - Author, So Damn Much Money
Peter Fitzgerald ...
Himself - Senator, Illinois
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Storyline

A probing investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Meet Jack Abramoff - America's Greatest Lobbyist. See more »

Genres:

Documentary

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

January 2010 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Casino Jack & the United States of Money  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$28,234 (USA) (9 May 2010)

Gross:

$175,604 (USA) (4 July 2010)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

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Color:

(HD)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The dramatic cinema movie Casino Jack (2010) and the feature film documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010), which were both pictures about the same subject, both actually debuted and premiered in the same year of 2010. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jack Abramoff: [in an e-mail message to Alex Gibney] Why would you want to make a documentary? No one watches documentaries. You should make an action film!
See more »

Connections

Features Patton (1970) See more »

Soundtracks

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
Written by David Byrne / Chris Frantz / Jerry Harrison / Tina Weymouth (as Martina Weymouth)
Published by WB Music Corp.
Performed by Talking Heads
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
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User Reviews

 
thoughtful politics - deserves to be seen
14 June 2010 | by (Ipswich MA) – See all my reviews

"Casino Jack" is about the Jack Abramoff lobbying/influence-peddling/fraud scandal ...and more. It's firmly in the form of a "documentary", but with a much larger team and budget and higher production values than that category label might at first lead you to expect. For example, many scenes that could be nothing more than dry transcript reading are in fact voiced by an actor over an image of a moving reel tape player as well as the printed materials.

The film is not particularly "slanted" or "one-sided" (although it's fairly easy to figure out where the filmmakers sympathies lie), and doesn't try hard to "demonize" any individual (although some subjects do a pretty good job of demonizing themselves). The film's main challenge is to circumscribe the large and somewhat ill-defined subject of money's influence on U.S. politics into a single coherent short story. Using the Jack Abramoff scandal as the framework to do that is inspired, but still barely enough. All the different sorts of scams that even that one individual was connected with can be a bit unwieldy (quick, how are garment sweatshops, Indian casinos, and a fleet of gambling ships related to each other?).

The film's (non)distribution is awful; don't take it as indicative of the quality. As is usual for "Participant" films, this film wants you to think for yourself and avoids "blood boiling". That also seems to mean it hasn't got enough commercial potential to get the full attention of the right people ...but even so I can't figure out why it's so inadequately distributed that it's just plain hard to find in most markets. You have to seek it out - it won't find you.

Lots of psychological background information about what may have made various people tick is presented. I found much of it pretty scary. Several political operatives -including some with a very different public persona- are shown to be driven by a "win at any cost" mentality and to have no sense of fairness nor appropriateness (let alone any discernible personal morals). Quite a few are shown to be driven by a "spy novel mentality", and to have played at being guerrilla soldiers. When the least offensive word to describe people is "paranoid", I quake in my boots. There's at least one case of a Luddite revulsion against modern technology and modern society in general, motivated by a rosy fantasy of small village life. And there's at least one explicit case -and several more implicit ones- of someone so totally engrossed in "doing a good job" that they only think about "the big picture" when reality clubs them over the head once every few years.

The film lays out pretty clearly the tight connections between lobbyists and the administration in power at that time. It quickly moves on after convincing the viewer that lobbyists couldn't bend our government into doing something it didn't already sort of want to do anyway.

In the end, the film tries to make the case that we're not talking about one bad apple, nor even about lots of bad apples, but about something about the barrel that causes apples to go bad. And the film suggests what that might be. The hugely rising and now outrageous cost of political campaigns is mentioned, as are the fact that federal politicians have to spend part of every day raising money, and even that they typically have a _permanent_ campaign organization. One politician whose career was upended by the scandal even explicitly says the words "public funding of campaigns". I was surprised listening to the people around me in the theater that even though the film's projection of this message seemed very plain to me, it could be completely missed by many viewers.

While the film mostly focuses on the Jack Abramoff scandal, it does mention the more recent financial crisis, and how campaign contributions and influence peddling may have contributed it. The film very briefly states its point that scores of nameless participants in the system can -and continue to- do far more damage than one rogue "super" lobbyist ever did.


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