Last Updated on
November 11, 2010
November 12, 2010
In the Prep News’s recent remembrance of SLUH filmmaker George Hickenlooper, editor-in-chief Nick Fandos chews on a quote from Joe Schulte about the director’s interest in telling stories about people living on the outside of the world they populate, and trying to fight their way in. “In a way,” Fandos asserts, “that outsider was Hickenlooper.”
It seems strange then that the filmmaker’s most recent work, Casino Jack (which premiered at the Saint Louis International Film Festival last night) is through and through a Hollywood film. After all, it stars the bankable Kevin Spacey, and it boasts a deft, fast-paced script from studio sweetheart Norman Snider. More than anything, it appears to come out of a period of swiftly paced but grandly designed topical films like, say, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps or David Fincher’s The Social Network. Hollywood, it seems, has finally caught up with the wave of grimy, slimy events of the last decade. If the 2000s were about immediate indictments of failing systems in documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth and Fahrenheit 9/11, the 2010s appear to be about using those events as templates on which to construct tight, character-based narratives. Even this summer’s Will Ferrell comedy blockbuster, The Other Guys, built its story around cops who are out to bust money launderers instead of drug dealers. At first glance, Casino Jack is just one more Hollywood film made by, apparently, one more set of Hollywood insiders.
It’s also hard to immediately find the connection between Schulte’s outsider claim and Hickenlooper’s chosen subject: Washington super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. By all first impressions, Abramoff is nothing if not an insider. He shoots through back doors of the Capital and smiles while he hands senators corporate kickbacks. We quickly learn that these are the men who really make things happen in Washington. In one early scene, we travel through Jack’s office and see the framed photos of Abramoff alongside Republican mastermind Karl Rove and House Majority Leader Tom Delay. Soon we see the Ronald Reagan baseball cap that sits on a plaque by Abramoff’s desk and a thank-you note signed by President Bush. If anything, we’re thinking, this guy is the insider’s insider.