Seemingly dead in the water after allegations were made against one of its then star leads, Kevin Spacey, and fraught with controversy over disproportionate payments to its other two main cast members after the subsequent reshoots, Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World certainly faced an uphill battle. Whilst the saying goes that ‘no press is bad press’, the film’s director may well have shared a difference of opinion if offered such words of consolation during the run-up to its theatrical release.
Based on the true story of the 1973 kidnapping of the grandson of the world’s richest man, Christopher Plummer ably stepped in at the last moment to replace the now disgraced Kevin Spacey, taking on the role of John Paul Getty. Not only must one admire the veteran actor’s fortitude to take on such a feat, it may well have actually worked in the film’s favour as Plummer completely steals the show with a powerhouse performance worthy of its subsequent high praise and justifying Plummer’s Oscar nomination. With photos since surfacing of Spacey wearing heavy make up and prosthetics in the role, I couldn’t help but think that the lead always demanded a more mature actor in the first place and whilst I can’t say for certain, I would argue that the loss of Spacey may have actually been advantageous to the final film.
The plot surrounds the kidnapping of John Paul Getty the Third by a gang of Calabrian mobsters who snatch the young man from the streets of Rome. Their plan was pretty simple, demand a large sum of cash from a man who could easily afford to pay the ransom, except they hadn’t bet on one factor, the hard faced, cold hearted response of a man so driven by the accumulation of wealth, that he was hard pressed to part with it no matter what was at stake. When we are first introduced to Getty, we find a man surrounded by an astonishing degree of opulence, only to then see his laundry hanging up in a hotel bathroom as he refused to pay for the establishment’s cleaning services.
When the kidnapped victim’s mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), approaches her now ex-father in law for help, she finds a man who while openly professing his love for his favourite grandchild, sternly refuses to part with any cash. At first Getty uses the rationale that if he were to pay the ransom that his other grandchildren would be at risk of befalling a similar fate and later even goes as far as to suggest that this plot may even be an elaborate ruse by the boy himself to get his hands on some premature inheritance (one can only dread to imagine how he would have dealt with the situation had it been his least favourite relative).
Instead the tycoon enlists the help of his employee in the form of ex-CIA agent Fletcher Chase, played by Mark Wahlberg, to help track down the kidnappers and hopefully broker a better deal for his grandson’s release. Chase is very much a “fixer” for Getty. Dispassionate and clinical in his approach, but as the story progresses, he finds himself more drawn into the drama and eventually sees the real danger for the abductee and the obvious pain and torment that his mother is going through through his time spent with her.
Williams shines throughout the film as a woman who has had no option but to be a tower of strength for her children after her divorce from their father, the drug addict son of the tycoon, but as the kidnapping progresses and eventually ends in the mutilation of her son as a show of determination on the kidnappers part, her facade begins to crumble in front of Chase’s eyes and the two form a plan to convince Getty to change his stance. Wahlberg is adequate in his role but is definitely third in line when it comes to the quality of the trinity of performances on show. His character seemingly promises so much but is often relegated to a mere expositional vessel between the other two main players.
Despite the conclusion being known to many (or very easily found out) prior to watching, Scott still manages to keep a genuine level of tension throughout. The combination of David Scarpa’s script (based on the novelisation by John Pearson) and the aforementioned performances by both Williams and Plummer provide more than enough to keep the viewer enthralled throughout the 132 minute runtime. Whilst not a perfect movie by any means, All The Money In The World is still a gripping and well crafted tale of greed from a variety of interlocked standpoints that is bolstered by two strong performances and is proof that with the right creative decisions, a project can be put back on course no matter what adversity it may face.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 7/10
All The Money In The World is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and is released on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 14th in the UK.