"Casino Jack" Blu-ray Review
April 26, 2011 by Zach Demeter
Catch Kevin Spacey in his Golden Globe-nominated performance as a megalomaniacal lobbyist in CASINO JACK, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD April 5th from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The critically acclaimed film based on a true story tells the tale of one of DC’s most lucrative lobbyists, who used his power and influence to create an extravagant lifestyle that included private jets, exotic cars, and even an offshore gambling business.
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 protege 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. CASINO JACK is a cautionary tale that showcases the best and worst of Capitol Hill intrigue, and also stars Barry Pepper (True Grit) Kelly Preston (Old Dogs, Death Sentence) and Jon Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, The Producers).
Kevin Spacey seems to be drawn to political films about really polarizing situations…and he seems to be drawn to the ones that no one remembers or has even heard of. Case in point the Recount film that HBO made surrounding the 2000 presidential election. I really enjoyed that film, but pretty much no one knows of it because it made such a small splash when it came out originally. Next up on Spacey’s docket is Casino Jack, the rather embellished take on the Jack Abramoff scandal. Considering the drama that has come out of that whole affair, it’s rather off-putting how nonchalant this film seems to be about things with serious scenes being backed up by rather glib music that makes the whole film feel…well, just strange. Critics seemed to agree with that sentiment as it didn’t survive long in theaters and it’s home video release is less than stellar, although there is something about this film that is at least in a small way a bit charming.
By that I mean it’s really Spacey’s performance that kind of saves it from being nothing but a complete mess. The pacing of the film is terribly awkward and though it’s less than two hours long the film just manages to flutter back and forth in a way that you are really unsettled by its progression. Granted it’s not exactly a story that you should be comfortable with given the media coverage, but it’s still not a film you really can get into completely. It has such a strange feeling about it; Spacey’s Abramoff is kind of a quirky fellow here and it just doesn’t feel right that he’s as zany as this. It certainly makes for a highly entertaining movie but it doesn’t feel like an entirely factual one.
Having said that the film is still kind of fun to watch in a guilty pleasure sort of way; it’s so uneven and haphazardly paced that it won’t make for a very mentally pleasing time to watch, but the performances alone are worth checking out. Spacey in particular showcases why he got those two Oscar’s—the man is just versatile as hell. While he tends to play loud and abrasive characters more often than not, this performance is nonetheless a very entertaining affair to watch. It’s not something you’ll watch more than once but Casino Jack is worth a Rental at least. I doubt all of what you see here is factual, at least in terms of the characters personalities, but I guess their ludicrosity (is that a word?) helps the disturbing things this guy did with people’s money a bit easier to swallow.
The set itself arrives in a standard single-disc Elite Blu-ray case without any kind of slipcover or anything. Inside is a barren case with just the lonely disc. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and extras…well, we’ll tackle that amazing element in a paragraph or so.
Video is an AVC encoded 1080p effort and as usual it looks great. There isn’t a whole lot on this disc to fight for space so the film features a healthy 20mbps transfer and it looks spectacular—plenty of daylight sequences that really show off what the format is capable when it comes to daylight scenes and the detail that they can provide. It’s a pretty nice looking little transfer and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is decidedly kind of overkill on a film like this so it’s no surprise that the surrounds barely make a whisper most of the time. Same for the LFE really—it’s a pretty mundane audio mix but it serves its purpose.
The only extras on this disc is a quick Blooper Reel, some Deleted Scenes and a Photo Diary--definitely nothing special and definitely nothing that’ll take up more than twenty minutes of your time…literally. Of course this isn’t a movie that did well enough neither critically nor commercially to warrant more extras, but that’s still a poor turnout. Makes you wonder why they even put them on there to begin with.
Overall a strict Rental disc.
Casino Jack is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.