ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD ½
2017, R, 132 mins.
Michelle Williams as Gail Harris / Christopher Plummer as Jean Paul Getty / Mark Wahlberg as Fletcher Chase / Romain Duris as Cinquanta / Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III / Timothy Hutton as Oswald Hinge / Andrew Buchan as John Paul Getty II / Olivia Grant as Millicent
Directed by Ridley Scott / Written by David Scarpa, based on the book by John Pearson
My main issue
with Ridley Scott's new fact based crime thriller ALL THE MONEY IN THE
WORLD is that the late breaking story behind the scenes of the making of
his film has not only overshadowed it...but it's also more compelling than
the final product itself.
Of course, I'm referring to the fact that as the film was nearing release Scott decided to recast Kevin Spacey in one of its more crucial roles - after a firestorm of sexual assault allegations were levied upon him - with a more age appropriate Christopher Plummer (more on that in a bit). This move was not only completely unprecedented in recent Hollywood history, but it was also an audacious and risky one (to replace an actor, reshoot all of his scenes, and still get the finished product in cinemas within striking distance of its original release date - all with just a month to spare - is a staggering testament to Scott's skills as a filmmaker). Plummer (whom apparently was Scott's first choice for his role, only to be stymied by the studio wanting a "big name" in Spacey) shot his scenes - with many of the original cast brought back on board - in just nine days. The film was only delayed by three from its initial release day.
particularly incredible, though, is ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD, which has
emerged from all of its pre-release notoriety as a mostly pedestrian and
serviceable kidnapping thriller at best.
The film deals with American born British industrialist and oil
tycoon J. Paul Getty, whom by the early 1970s was the richest man in the
world. In July of 1973 Getty'
16-year-old grandson Paul was kidnapped, leading to a ransom demand of $17
million. Getty was a
notoriously frugal man with his fortune and initially - and very publicly
- declined paying the ransom, which he felt was the height of extortion.
Even though Getty most certainly had the necessary funds to ensure
his son's safe return home alive, he nevertheless engaged in lengthy
negotiations with the abductors to severely lessen the amount.
Paul was eventually set free, but the whole ordeal - which led to him
being mutilated by his captors as a form of pressure tactics against the Getty
family - left him emotionally destroyed.
He became a drug and alcohol addict and suffered a debilitating stroke
as a result in 1981. He then died decades later at 54 a very broken man.
details are curiously left out of Scott's film, which
seems to ostensibly focus on the whole painful and protracted
ordeal that Getty put his family through in order to simply save a buck.
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD does a fairly decent job - albeit with
some awkward narrative detours and time shifts - to introduce us to all of
the key players that would see this mentally traumatizing ordeal through.
The film opens in 1973 and showcases the unnerving kidnapping of
Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer) at the hands of Italian thugs, who's then
subsequently placed in a makeshift prison while the crooks proceed with
their ransom demands. Paul's
mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), is financially ill equipped - as most
would be - to come up with the relative fortune it would take to free her
son, so she turns to her father in law in J. Paul Getty (Plummer), which
he steadfastly refuses to do, based on his logic that if he were to give
in then it would send a message to other criminals that the family can be
easily bought off (that, and he was too cheap to pay).
Instead, Getty sends in his security expert, Chase (Mark Wahlberg),
to help assess the situation. The
rest of the film follows Gail struggling to cope with reasoning with the
kidnappers' demands while Getty remains stubborn in his conviction to not
give in...even if it means irreparable harm being done to his grandson.
dynamic of the Paul Getty kidnapping is endlessly fascinating on multiple
levels, especially in the manner that it's a tale of omnipotent greed and
how rich people in places of authority and power can show such a shocking
lack of mercy towards even loved ones in peril.
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is on solid ground when it hones in on
the troubling family discord that permeates the narrative, highlighting a
mother driven by compassion and worry over her son's well being, whereas
his grandfather is more ostensibly focused on how to save the most money
and securing his place atop the financial world.
Getty is not presented as a one note, black and white villain in
the film; his reluctance to immediately free his son is rightfully
scandalous, but he's more of a pathetic and lonely figure that has a
better relationship with his material possessions than he does with his
family. He's more sad than
pure evil, but, yes, he did unspeakably cruel things.
this home in his quietly menacing portrait of a man of unfathomable influence
whose own gluttony was his worst trait.
The 88-year-old veteran is not only age appropriate for Getty
(seeing Spacey under pounds of makeup in early trailers for the film was a
distracting sight), but he also pitch perfectly encapsulates a man driven
by a clinginess to money, objects, and mind games of will that he believes
he can win at all costs. A
lesser actor would have made Getty a full-on caricaturized antagonist of
viscous unwaveringness, but Plummer injects sprinkles of humanity that
come through the cracks, which makes the role so much more compelling.
The other performance standout is Williams, and if you're willing
to turn a blind eye to the initial awkwardness of her Katherine Hepburn-styled
enunciation (which comes off as heavily mannered at times), she
nevertheless gives a thankless performance as her tormented mother that's
both sickened by what could happen to her son, but remains deeply
commitment and strong to fight the long battle of securing his release.
authentically rendered is Wahlberg, who's six ways to Sunday badly cast
and utterly out of his performance element as Getty's right hand man.
His performance is so nonchalant and lacking in intensity that you
kind of have to wonder whether or not he had any idea what kind of
character and/or film he was inhabiting.
The clumsiness extends beyond Wahlberg's casting, seeing as the
opening stages of the film are strangely constructed, which tries to cover
the history of Getty's rise to power in the oil market with strange
flashbacks shoehorned in that disrupt the flow of the kidnapping plot.
The temporal segues the script makes are frequently jarring, not to
mention how some subplots are carefully introduced, only later to be
abandoned and never dealt with satisfactorily again.
Like, for instance, Chase's flirtatious banter with Gail and how he
inserts himself into her life and children, becoming a surrogate
father/husband to the divorcee. Any
hint of romance between the pair disappears, which begs the question as to
why it was even referenced in the first place.
There are also
instances where the reshoots, rather regrettably, stick out like sore
thumbs: Many moments involving Plummer and Wahlberg are patently obvious,
seeing as the former's build becomes skinnier and hairline shrinks when
compared to the scenes that preceded it. There are also moments when Plummer appears to have been
digitally inserted into already shot Spacey footage, but not to alarmingly
noticeable effect. All in
all, ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD suffers from the JUSTICE
LEAGUE/Henry Cavill moustache-gate in the sense that if you're aware
that Plummer was a last minute replacement for Spacey then you'll
undoubtedly be scrutinizing the new footage with him looking for
continuity errors more than you would have if you were blissfully unaware.
I'm sure virginal viewers that had no knowledge of the backstage
politics of the making of this film will be pretty oblivious to the
alterations, but as for the rest of us in the know...they're hard to
On one last positive, ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is a refreshingly low key and understated film for Scott to tackle, especially after the creative failure of ALIEN: COVENANT. I'll give him full props for making the daring choice of terminating one of the most decorated and well known actors in Hollywood at the eleventh hour and allowing another industry icon to pinch hit for him...and somehow make the film look relatively complete upon viewing. My overall misgivings with ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is that is plays more like an uninspired TV movie than a feature film. In the end, the film is not entirely suspenseful nor thoroughly enthralling. There's a compelling film - or even mini-series - to be made of Getty's life and his grandson's famous kidnapping, but ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD feels too abridged, too hastily scripted, and too misshapen to work as effectively as it wants to. Years from now I surmise that it'll only be remembered for what happened before its release and not for the quality of what's contained within.