Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole ★★★★½

Bill Shorten's profile-boosting role in the Beaconsfield Mine disaster of 2007 now seems so much more sinister. It's uncanny.

Despite the obligatory third act Code molestations (upfront moral reckoning baying for blood), particularly a choking incident from which the film never really recovers, this is classic American standard at its finest, a tar black excursion into the circus fever and human depravity perpetrated by the immoral pursuit and exploitation of 'human interest'. It's influence is unimpeachable, all the way down to The Wire. It exudes Wilder charm, drips in Faulknerian sweat, and stabs at the very core of a fatally flawed society with searing fatalism in the vein of All the King's Men. Like that film, it is a scathing howl against a too-big-too-fail system criminal to its core, riffing repeatedly off of a surgically precise screenplay which is a stunning concoction of self-loathing and genius. But I suspect the frightening power of this conceptually tight film will only resonate further on closer critical analysis. Whilst somewhat grotesquely exaggerated, it never strains credibility, and devastates repeatedly. I think it manages to locate that ideal balance between social realism and engaging entertainment. A brave, towering piece of classic American cinema, and a despairing indictment of its culture. A sensation, in all the wrong ways and stripped down to its core.

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