All the Money in the World


All the Money in the World  (2017)    TriStar/Drama-Thriller    RT: 133 minutes    Rated R (language, some violence, disturbing images, brief drug content)    Director: Ridley Scott    Screenplay: David Scarpa    Music: Daniel Pemberton    Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski    Release date: December 25, 2017 (US)    Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan.



 All the Money in the World, an account of the real life 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson of oil billionaire J. Paul Getty, will likely be remembered more for its production drama than anything else. It originally featured Kevin Spacey in the role of the elder Getty. That is, until the sexual misconduct allegations against him came out this past fall. Director Ridley Scott made the decision to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer. He called the cast and crew back for reshoots beginning on November 20, about a month before the film’s scheduled release. He reshot all of Spacey’s scenes with Plummer and edited them into the finished film in less than two weeks. The movie’s release date was delayed by only three days (it opened Dec. 25 instead of the 22nd). I tend to avoid discussing controversial stuff in my reviews but I’ll make an exception in this case. Mr. Scott, I applaud you. It’s time celebrity wrongdoers are held accountable for their own misdeeds.

 all the money in the worldOkay, I’m done grandstanding. Let’s talk about the movie. All the Money in the World is based on John Pearson’s 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty (a real page-turner I’m sure). Getty’s spoiled 16-year-old grandson is kidnapped in Italy by members of an organized crime syndicate. They demand a $17 million ransom which Getty flat-out refuses to pay. The reason for this is simple; he’s a cheapskate and a mean old bastard. Even though he can clearly afford it, he tries to negotiate a lower price, preferably an amount that’s tax-deductable. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that his grandson could be hurt or killed by his captors.

 His mother Gail (Williams, The Greatest Showman), who forfeited any and all claims to the Getty fortune after her divorce from John Paul II in exchange for custody of their children, can barely contain her anger and frustration at her former father-in-law’s refusal to pay the ransom. He won’t even take a face-to-face meeting with her. Instead, he pawns her off on his security advisor (and former CIA op) Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg, Patriots Day) who stays by her side throughout the entire ordeal.

 All the Money in the World is good not great. It’s a bit too long and sags a bit the middle. Despite its pacing issues, it’s mostly riveting. It has a few genuinely suspenseful sequences although I’m pretty sure the kidnapping didn’t end as depicted in the movie. The whole bit with Getty III trying to dodge his kill-minded captors while Chase and his mom try to find him in a dark town feels too much like a Hollywood-mandated ending. Still, it adds a nice amount of tension to the proceedings.

 The acting in All the Money in the World is mostly superb with the exception of Wahlberg whose character barely makes an impression. Wahlberg just doesn’t stand out in a field of great performances led by Christopher Plummer. I can’t comment on how Spacey would have fared in the role but I suspect there would be many comments to the effect that his old age makeup job distracts from his performance. It certainly seemed that way in the original trailer. In any event, Plummer does an amazing job as the miserly J. Paul Getty. It’s one of his boldest performances. He plays a character without a single redeeming quality. He is thoroughly repugnant. He claims money as the primary motivator behind his selfish, heartless decision not to pay up but one gets the idea it’s something more. There’s a curious lack of empathy at work here. Most people would do anything to save a loved one from a dangerous, potentially deadly situation. The elder Getty is far removed from anything remotely resembling human decency. You really come to hate him. I see an Oscar nomination at least.

 Williams is also very good as the mother who basically stands by powerless. She has no money of her own. When she tries to sell what she thinks is a valuable statue given to her by Getty Sr., it turns out to be a worthless trinket he bought in a gift shop. She can barely contain herself but she must in order to stay in Getty’s good graces should he change his mind about paying the ransom. Gail must have had incredible discipline not to go off on Getty. Charlie Plummer (no relation) is also good as the grandson, a spoiled child of privilege and discipline problem. He’s a rebellious sort who’s been thrown out of a couple of private schools for bad behavior. At first, it’s thought he staged his own kidnapping as he previously expressed an interest in doing this to friends. He convincingly conveys fear and anxiety as it sinks in he might never go free.

 All the Money in the World recalls cinema of the 70s when character and plot took precedence over action and special effects. Scott’s visual sense, as always, is first-rate. It has the look of a 70s movie. It’s brutal when it needs to be. It also has a dark sense of humor. It’s a good movie. It doesn’t need to be as long-winded as it is. You’ll notice the running time but it is time well-spent. See it for three great performances. See it for its account of a true crime. See it as an indictment of great wealth and greed and how they rot a person’s soul. The rich are definitely not like the rest of us. All the Money in the World makes this abundantly clear.

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