Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan, Charlie Shotwell, Stacy Martin.
All The Money In The World is prolific filmmaker Ridley Scott’s dramatization of the real-life kidnapping of J Paul Getty III, the 16-year-old grandson of oil magnate J Paul Getty, the richest man in the world (played here by Christopher Plummer). In 1973 the teenaged Getty was living in Rome when he was snatched off the city streets by Calabrian gangsters and held for ransom. The kidnappers demanded $17 million. Getty refused to pay, fearing that to do so would open the floodgates for further similar extortion demands for his other 14 grandchildren. Despite being a multi-billionaire, Getty preferred to spend his money on arts and antiques because, unlike people, they would never let him down. Getty’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams) tried to gather the money to secure her son’s release. Divorced from Getty’s drug addicted son (Andrew Buchan), Gail has no access to the Getty fortune.
Negotiations dragged on for nearly six gruelling months. Ex-CIA agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), who worked as a security specialist for Getty senior, was brought in to try and negotiate with the kidnappers. He was initially sceptical thinking that the young Getty had staged the kidnapping in order to get his hands on his grandfather’s money. Meanwhile, Gail found herself relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi anxious for details of the lurid story. During the long ordeal the young Getty (played by Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher) managed to form a rapport with one of his kidnappers Cinquanta (played by French heartthrob Romain Duris, from Heartbreaker, etc) who begins to feel protective of the boy.
This true-life crime drama has been written by David Scarpa (the 2008 remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, etc) and is based on Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes And Misfortunes Of The Heirs Of J Paul Getty, John Pearson’s non-fiction account of the kidnapping and its aftermath. The film explores themes of crime, greed, obsession, family, the corrupting nature of wealth. There are quite a few subplots running throughout the narrative, and not all of them are successful. And one feels that Scarpa has taken some liberties with the story for dramatic effect.
Scott’s pacing though is a little slow and the film plods along, almost as if Scott is in no hurry. The film spans some six months, and at times it feels like it. There is a frustrating lack of cohesion to early scenes which jump around in time and location and the disjointed nature of the opening effectively keeps audiences at a distance. Scott’s direction is pretty laid back, and the tension only ratchets up in the latter stages of the film as Chase and Gail close in on the kidnappers. There is also the rather disturbing scene in which the kidnappers cut off Getty’s ear to increase pressure on the family for payment of the ransom money.
All The Money In The World will forever be remembered as the film in which the disgraced Kevin Spacey was controversially replaced after the film had been completed, and his scenes reshot. The role of J Paul Getty was recast with Christopher Plummer taking over the role. For the most part, Scott reshot 22 scenes involving Spacey in about nine days; although there is one early sequence set in the desert where it is obvious that CGI has been used in the process. Plummer’s scenes are almost seamlessly incorporated into the film.
For his part, Plummer is perfectly cast as the misanthropic, miserly millionaire and he plays him as a cold-hearted, tight fisted, narcissistic, smarmy and ruthless monster. He brings unexpected nuances and some gallows humour to the role. This is a powerful performance that is a far cry from his portrayal of the stern but beloved Captain Von Trapp in the Oscar winning classic The Sound Of Music fifty years ago. The movie is at its most involving and gripping whenever Plummer senior is on screen. (Ironically, we recently saw him as the model for the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in The Man Who Invented Christmas.) Another irony is that Scott originally wanted Plummer for the role of Getty but the studio demanded he cast a bigger name!
One day the footage featuring Spacey’s performance may surface as DVD extras in a director’s cut of the film though and we will be able to compare the two. But all this behind the scenes drama is ultimately far more intriguing than much of what we get in this lacklustre thriller.
Williams brings gravitas and a real sense of desperation and anguish to her performance as the increasingly frantic Gail, and she is the emotional heart of the film. Wahlberg does what he can, but he remains a fairly bland character. The scenes he shares with Plummer though crackle with tension. And while Getty junior may be the victim here we don’t really get to empathise with him as his character remains largely underdeveloped. The cast also includes Timothy Hutton, who is solid as Getty’s pragmatic lawyer Oliver Hinge.
This is a handsomely mounted production though, and the production design from regular collaborator Arthur Max is good and steeped in 70s ambience. His recreation of Getty’s lavish mansion is very good. The film has been crisply shot in widescreen by Dariusz Wolski, who uses a burnished, brownish colour palette that is evocative of the era and gives the film a noir-like look and feel. But a coldness permeates much of the film.