I'm on the fence in how I feel about Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole, a 1951 Billy Wilder film noir. On the one hand I feel he plays it a bit broadly--he's so abrasive, I don't understand why the people around him tolerate it so much. He's a big city newspaper man who belittles the staff at the small Albuquerque newspaper he's been exiled to sometimes in word and always in his insolent manner, yet for some reason the staff listen with rapt attention as he soliloquises for them angrily about what a lousy beat he has now. It stretches credibility somewhat, however talented a writer he might be. On the other hand, there's a self-consciousness about the performance that makes it absolutely perfect.
His character, Chuck Tatum, goes through the movie seemingly twisting a knife in his own gut. He's a consummate cynic--he's the only guy who'll go into the cave to give food and a blanket to the man trapped under rocks inside only because he's disgusted with the sheepish policeman there and because he wants a story, a break to get him out of Albuquerque. He decides he's going to milk the story of the man trapped in the cave for all its worth, though it also strained credibility a bit that he never seems to contemplate the possibility the man will die until near the end. The moment he started ruthlessly talking about what a great story it was going to be when the guy was pulled out a week later, I knew he was about get taught a lesson.
Nevertheless, it's a great movie about media ruthlessness and the malleability of the public consciousness. And Douglas as Tatum is a captivating high wire act, a man trying to kill the heart inside him with the machine he hates but assumes is unbeatable.