Synopsis: The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.
Stars: Michelle Williams, Kevin Spacey, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer, Timothy Hutton
Director: Ridley Scott
Running Length: 132 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: The first thing we should do with All the Money in the World is applaud director Ridley Scott for having it ready to release in the first place. Originally the film featured now disgraced Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey (Working Girl) under heavy make-up to play J. Paul Getty but after his headline-making nosedive in the midst of scandal Scott made the almost unheard-of decision in late November to replace Spacey with another Oscar-winner (Christopher Plummer) and still have the movie ready to go by its Christmas Day release date. Well, applause is definitely warranted for the 80-year-old director because the movie is finished and it looks great…but is it any good?
The answer to that question lies in your willingness to see the story of the prolonged kidnapping and ransom of Getty’s grandson for the stylish period thriller Scott wants it to be and not the par-baked soapy drama it winds up resembling. Sure, Scott knows his way around these throwback tales with their washed-out colors and extraordinary eye for detail, but there’s so little heart and soul to the proceedings that it’s hard to find anyone to sympathize with or, in my case, stay awake for.
Yes, it’s true. I feel asleep for a good ten or fifteen minutes in the first half of the movie and while I’d like to attribute my heavy lids to seeing it the day after Christmas, the honest truth was that the glacial pacing in that first hour is enough to lull even the most Red Bull-ized audience member into dreamland. I just wasn’t interested in the initial investigation into the disappearance of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation to the other present Plummer) or the strange bonding that happens between the victim and his kidnapper (Romain Duris). Informed by my movie mate that I didn’t miss much, even taking a few winks it wasn’t hard to pick up where I left off.
The film starts to be something to worth remembering when all hope seems to be lost and Getty’s mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Willaims, The Greatest Showman) begins to be a more active player in getting her son back. Working with a hired gun (Mark Wahlberg, Ted) originally employed by her former father-in-law, Gail gets in on the action by negotiating not only with the kidnappers that have her son but with her imposing in-law that quid pro quos her every step of the way. Williams is in a strange mode here, doing her darndest to maintain an Eastern accent and playing deep despair without ever looking like she really is invested in what’s happening around her. Wahlberg is coasting too, his entire role is so low-impact I’m wondering why they needed him at all.
It’s hard to look at the film now and even consider Spacey playing J. Paul Getty. Sure, early trailers invoked some curiosity into how the 50-something actor would play the octogenarian, but Plummer is such an impressive force in the role I’d bet top dollar studio executives didn’t bat an eye when Scott proposed his reshoot plan. Plummer’s aces in every one of his scenes and Williams and Wahlberg (both wearing wigs that don’t quite match scenes directly before and after) graciously give him the floor and recreate their emotions as if this was the plan all along.
Scott (The Martian, Prometheus) has never been dormant for long but he’s enjoying a nice little renaissance at this late stage in his career. Earlier in 2017 his misguided Alien: Covenant was a big bummer for me but this one feels more in his wheelhouse and he’s breezily operating within his comfort zone. The script from David Scarpa adapted from John Pearson’s book doesn’t have anything remarkable to say so the movie is left to create interest based on the characters and the impeccable production design. On those merits, it’s a success, but performances and set-dressings can’t be the main source of recommendation for a movie so All the Money on the World winds up with a buyer beware notice.