All the Money to Edit Someone Out
This is a 2017 drama that I was not expecting to cover as part of the awards season; but thanks to some behind the scenes drama, the latest from Ridley Scott has now become a talking point in hashtag “MeToo” movement. So what does the true life abduction and ransom of John Paul Getty III have to do with the exposure of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood? Not much, except one of the original lead actors on the production was Kevin Spacey…who was recently outed as molesting young men. Almost a week after the scandal came to light, Ridley Scott made the surprising and shocking announcement that he had chosen to recast Spacey with Christopher Plummer, despite the fact the film had already been completed. Even more bold was that Scott committed to releasing his film a mere six weeks later after announcing his intention just in time for the Oscar race. So given the rush job, how did Scott and company fare? Let’s dive in to All the Money in the World to find out.
So John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation to the venerable actor) is the grandson of John P. Getty (Christopher Plummer), who gets kidnapped while vacationing in Italy in 1973. Now the motive behind the kidnapping is obvious, John Paul Getty was an oil tycoon who was, at the time, the richest man in the world. So the small time Italian kidnappers demand a $17 million ransom from Getty III’s mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams). Unfortunately for all parties involved, Harris has not had the best relationship with the senior Getty on account of the fact that she divorced from his son after he was caught sleeping around. Despite the fact that his grandson may be in serious danger, however, the elder Getty refuses to pay a cent in ransom money and instead dispatches his right hand man (and ex-CIA operative), Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg). Thus begins a back and forth of high stakes negotiations in order to get Getty III safely home.
While on paper, this sounds like a relentlessly interesting war of words as Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg have to batter with both Christopher Plummer’s character and Italian gangsters in order to bring an innocent man home safely. Unfortunately, the pacing of this movie is all over the pace. Sometimes, the back and forth in negotiations are indeed riveting, but the movie wastes too much time in between these moments with not much going on. Now films that engaged in verbal sparing, like A Few Good Men or Frost/Nixon, bridged their big moments with a smattering of comedy, character development and some smart direction. And unfortunately, despite having a talented director like Ridley Scott at the helm, turns out he was on autopilot for this project (like he usually gets these days).
See, Scott usually excels when he gets a script that can excite him, as was the case with The Martian. But when it comes to scripts like Prometheus, the wind beneath his sails just completely die and he turns in a workmanlike production that could never be considered incompetent, but lacks any urgency or anything to latch on to. And here with All the Money in the World, you fail to get know the kidnapee and even worry for his safety, despite the movie taking a good chunk of time with him and his kidnappers. Ironically, you get to see more development come out of one of the gangsters (Romain Duris) that develops a decent relationship with Getty III. Hell, even between your leads in Plummer, Wahlberg and Williams, they each have great moments on their own, but not with each other.
To the trio’s credit, they each give solid performances. Wahlberg is serviceable, as he usually is, but he doesn’t provide anything to write home about. But Michelle Williams is seriously acting on a level way above Mark Wahlberg, and once again demonstrates why she’s one of the most interesting actresses to see work. So I would have liked to see her tangle against Plummer’s John Paul Getty. Unfortunately, I see why it was so easy and seamless for Ridley Scott to have recast the role in such a short amount of time: he’s barely in the film and has very few tussles with Williams. Granted, when the movie is focused on both of them, you see what attracted everyone to the project in the first place, but it just would have been nice to be provided with more of that.
Perhaps if the writing had some more choice lines and knew how to keep a solid pace the way other experienced screenwriters accomplish, I would have dug this film a whole lot more. But the film just feels so mediocre. I honestly think Plummer has only been nominated for an Oscar exclusively as a statement in favor of the hashtag MeToo movement, because I have seen others in 2017 knock it out of the park. He’s fine for what he’s given, but even if Spacey was not replaced, I don’t see this as a role that could have really garnered anybody a serious awards nomination.
Honestly, if you would catch this on a streaming service, you might find yourself attracted to it for a few brief moments, especially if you leave it on in the background as you go about doing some other activity (so you won’t get bored during the weaker moments). So I’ll give this a middling…
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