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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad77.78%
Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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All the Money in the World
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by Jay Seaver

"You can buy a better co-star, but not a better story."
2 stars

It's a harsh and horrible thing to say, but the various controversies that impacted "All the Money in the World" may have been the best things for it. Send this out into the world either with Christopher Plummer cast as J. Paul Getty from the start or with no frantic replacement of Kevin Spacey, and this is a pretty forgettable movie. Now, at least, it will be a footnote in an interesting story.

The film is based upon the story of how, in April 1973, Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer), the sixteen-year-old grandson and namesake of oil magnate J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer, no relation), was kidnapped off the streets of Rome by a crew led by Cinquanta (Romain Duris). The crew demands a seventeen million dollar ransom, an amount mother Abigail Harris Getty (Michelle Williams) is completely unable to pay, having relinquished any financial compensation in exchange for full custody in her divorce. She pleads her case with with her former father-in-law, but Getty senior refuses to pay any ransom, though he does assign former CIA agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to try find the kidnappers and get Paul back without paying.

As nightmarish a situation as that is, this particular kidnapping is not necessarily one that translates into a movie. It's a thriller built around a long-term waiting game, and the filmmakers never really figure out how to wring tension out of that. Maybe, perhaps, as a TV show, with room for subplots and the feeling that things are actually dragging out, it works (it will be interesting to see how well the upcoming miniseries Trust works), but the movie flattens that. The script by David Scarpa includes a number of flashbacks, but they seldom shed much extra light on any motivations or planting seeds that will germinate later, like Scarpa and director Ridley Scott know that there's a lot going on underneath this story, but can't find the pieces of information that would add insight rather than background.

Scott is too good a director for this for this to be completely crippling, but he's also not necessarily a great fit for the movie. He somewhat playfully opens things with a sequence that recalls the Italian cinema of he time period, but never truly captures the emotion of those films; it's just a bit of scene-setting He's got enough resources available to capture the rarefied air that Getty occupies with vast estates and a San Francisco headquarters that vanishes into the clouds, and as Getty's personal world is expansive, the one around him seems to shrink - he may be in San Francisco, England, or Rome in any given scene. He pays attention to procedural detail, perhaps almost too much - even the most lurid moments of the story never have the spark they should, whether it be the police mounting an assault or the kidnappers' infamous way of showing they mean business. The finale is oddly muted; maybe that's accurate, but it seems like another missed chance. He could have used this chase to say something, but instead, it's just a thing that happened, much like the throngs of paparazzi, which feel historically accurate but not tied into anything else.

The biggest trouble, though, is a cast of real-life characters that seem bland. Getty may not actually be fascinating - he's too perfect a miser - but there's got to be some hook that could get the audience to at least wonder about him. Christopher Plummer believably captures a weird and likely familiar pathology - a certain ability for warmth and appreciation for beauty that can get pushed aside by his overriding greed, but it's not quite enough to make one curious. Mark Wahlberg plays a tremendously bland ex-spy, and Michelle Williams makes Abigail Getty too much a movie character, all conscious hand-winging and bitter remarks in a transcontinental accent. It's good hand-wringing - there's never any doubt of the pain or the steely pride that keeps her from fully revealing it. As capable as the performances are, these folks just never grab the audience's imagination, certainly not enough to make the irony of the finale actually interesting.

Things could have turned out worse - the initial previews from before the reshoots had some pretty terrible old-age makeup, to start - but being bad isn't its problem. It's not quite boring, but it's certainly unmemorable, which may be the graver offense.

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originally posted: 01/15/18 14:25:38
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User Comments

3/28/18 Langano Not bad. 3 stars
1/22/18 Jack Just awful. Ridley screws up another movie. 1 stars
1/15/18 Bob Dog A great true story blunted by the poor direction of Ridley Scott. 2 stars
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  22-Dec-2017 (R)
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  DVD: 10-Apr-2018

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