Casino Jack and the United States of Money (Review)

Damning documentary compelling but too overstuffed

Overloaded to the point of diminishing returns, Alex Gibney’s soup-to-nuts examination of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff doesn't know when to cut bait. Audiences already numb to the staggering scale of America’s ongoing governmental corruption will have a tough time digesting the cynical climate of greed that allows Abramoff’s manipulation of congressmen and senators to continue under radical neoconservative rule, now enabled by a black Democratic president.

From Abramoff’s decision to adopt conservative Judaism after watching the film Fiddler on the Roof at age 12 to his participation in the radical College Republicans with Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, the film shows how the faction's free-market zealotry led to America’s pay-to-play political landscape, where over $3 trillion a year is spent hiring lobbyists to influence public policy. Try as the filmmakers might to infuse the documentary with splashy touches of docudrama elements, lively music and unfounded optimism about Abramoff being the kind of villain audiences will love to hate, this film is merely another damning look at systemic political ills that no one in charge has the power to address, much less reverse.

In case you didn’t get the memo from Afghanistan, Iraq or Gitmo, here’s an updated edit showing exactly how badly America is fucked. Grade: B

Opens May 21. Check out theaters and show times, see more photos from the film and get theater details here.
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