The worst that can be said is that this eye-opening documentary’s a shade too long and fawns a bit too much over rags-to-riches Tennessean Chris Moneymaker. Small quibbles aside, from memorable-scene montage to tension-building end, All In is a delightful, engrossing surprise even to those who prefer Blackjack over Texas Hold ’Em.
Director Tirola’s high-stakes labor of love is impossibly thorough in its interview subjects (players, execs, writers, Matt Damon, Evander Holyfield, Ira Glass, a Simpsons writer, Kenny Rogers), generous in its scope and philosophical in its ruminations on re-forging identities and chasing the American Dream. Even its delving into the sport/game’s historical context—from France, New Orleans, World War II and Texas to Vegas, Rounders, TV and the Internet—is well-paced and entertaining.
Though Moneymaker’s interspersed saga undisputedly dominates, lesser aspects are what truly up the ante. Addiction, ethics and the law? Check? A peek inside a card factory? Naturally. Housewives in church halls? But of course. All In certainly doesn’t instruct or discourage, but it does provide an optimistic crash-course in sociology: From outlaws to upstarts, no matter your background, anyone can come out a winner, a comeback is always possible, and luck is what you make it.