2010, Movies

Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010, Alex Gibney)

This is an episodic yet frenetic documentary about Jack Abramoff and his lobbying scandal. I can’t say I loved the style of the film, which was a little over-reliant on pop culture cues, but the film takes a serious issue and makes it entertaining, which is something that should be commended.

When I was younger, I used to label certain movies “never having children” movies. Lately, I feel like I am experiencing a lot of happiness because I do not live in the United States. And, well, this is a “I’m sure glad I don’t live in the United States” movie. Because, though Canada has its fair share of political corruption, most political corruption is illegal here, and when it is caught, people usually have either political or legal consequences. But in the US, a certain type of political corruption is legal and has been for decades. Some of what is documented in this movie is illegal but the problem is that the rules are not strict and the lack of rules encourages unethical and illegal behaviour.

The movie is a strong indictment of the current system in the US, where politicians are desperate for campaign funds and don’t care where they come from, as long as someone somewhere assures them its ethical. Sure, what Abramoff did was always unethical and often illegal, but the entire system is unethical.

The film also does a good job at showing how the unethical lobbying situation in Washington is tired directly to the politics of one political party in particular. This party runs on the idea that regulation is bad for America, but it is this very lack of regulation that allows these politicians to be bought and paid for, with or without their knowledge.

Like I said, I didn’t necessarily love the style, as I generally do not love films divided into chapters, and I found the use of old movie clips and famous songs to be mostly superfluous. But I get how that could help connecting with an audience that might otherwise be bored by white collar corruption. But the film is well made and is an important reminder of how fucked the US political system was long before this particular administration.


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