WHEN JACK ABRAMOFF is released from prison late this year, he will not benefit from having been out of sight, his crimes a fading memory. Instead, the former lobbyist who contributed to massive levels of corruption in the US government is the subject of not one but two 2010 films chronicling his breathtakingly expansive crimes. One is a dramatized biopic starring Kevin Spacey, due in early fall. The documentary version, by Alex Gibney (the director of Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and basically the go-to guy for telling you the news that's so bad you don't really want to know), is titled Casino Jack and the United States of Money and preps you for the whirling scope of what you're in for.
Truth be told, there's simply too much information crammed into Casino: The film sweeps through the fascinating early beginnings of Abramoff as a young Republican radical, burning effigies and beginning to grow horns alongside child-Satan versions of Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, and Ralph Reed. Before you know it, he's ripping off American Indian tribes (and threatening "another trail of tears"—just one of the many damningly colorful email quotes that weave throughout his career), covering up sweatshop labor and indentured servitude in Saipan, and even writing and producing a hilariously over-the-top anti-Communist propaganda film (Red Scorpion).
Abramoff packed in a lot of action before winding up behind bars, and even with Gibney's expeditious filmmaking tactics it's hard to synthesize the significance of every transgression before the film moves on to the next. The constant inundation of white-collar criminal evidence is so mind-glazing to the layperson that Gibney has to periodically roust his audience with pop references or shock, the rather dulling effect of which is a complicated reminder that no matter how much you know about government corruption, it's only the tip of the iceberg.