You can't be a sleazy lobbyist on the national scale of Jack Abramoff without doing some dirty deeds in Broward County. That's the setting for an opening scene in a just-released documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the scene involves Fort Lauderdale developer and restaurant tycoon Gus Boulis -- and that it ends in a hail of gunfire.
The movie has its world premiere tonight at the Regal South Beach Cinema 18 and will be playing there through the Memorial Day weekend.
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For all Abramoff's fedora-festooned flair, his crimes are decidedly white collar. Which is probably why the filmmakers opened with the Boulis murder. But the intrigue surrounding that killing, for which Gambino family associates were charged, vanishes from the narrative
until the film's second hour, when it finally describes the fraudulent purchase by Abramoff of Boulis' SunCruz casino ships and how Mafia involvement in the deal may have played a role in Boulis' gangland-style murder.
The documentary was made by Alex Gibney, who won an Academy Award in 2007 for Taxi to the Dark Side. Reviews have been a bit mixed. This one in the Washington Post says that "Gibney's documentary strains to make sense of the minutiae without losing the audience's attention over its formidable, two-hour length."
Maybe it's that covering South Florida politics has helped me develop an appetite for this kind of "minutiae," but I liked the film for its attention to the details. There was nothing particularly elegant about the way Abramoff corrupted politicians, but the simple fact that he did so should whet the palate of anyone who cares about what happens behind the scenes on Capitol Hill.