All the Money in the World (2017)

Review #1,538






THE SCOOP
Director:  Ridley Scott
Cast:  Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris
Plot:  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.

Genre:  Drama / Crime / Biography
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Supporting Actor
Runtime:  132 mins
Rating:  NC16 (passed clean) for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content
International Sales:  STX International
Singapore Distributor:  Golden Village Pictures

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“They say you never really know someone until you have divorced them.”

Much has been praised about Ridley Scott’s unprecedented call to recast Kevin Spacey (amid allegations of sexual misconduct) with Christopher Plummer in the supporting role of J. Paul Getty, a supremely rich and frustratingly selfish old man who doesn’t want to pay the ransom to save his kidnapped grandson.  To say that it is a supporting role might be a misnomer, because judging from the end product there seems to be plenty of screen time for Plummer (and presumably that was the case for Spacey as well).

Which makes it even more of a feat to accomplish such a major reshoot a few weeks before the film’s planned release.  Scott’s ticking time-bomb decision—and pulling it off without breaking any sweat, or at least that was the impression he gave—might have been the reason he landed the surprise Golden Globe nod for Best Director (at the expense of, presumably, Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig or Get Out’s Jordan Peele), but amid all the hoo-hah, it would be imperative to ask: is All the Money in the World really that good?

The answer is unfortunately no.  At best, it is an above-average work that you might have seen before over the years in various forms; at worst, it is Scott’s weakest film in a long while, and that’s saying something after such critical flops in this decade as Robin Hood (2010), The Counselor (2013), Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), and Alien: Covenant (2017).

While he remains a filmmaker of incredible visual panache, which for better or worse, tends to alleviate or hide the narrative shortcomings of some of his works, his latest is rather run-of-the-mill, even visually.  Nothing really stands out in All the Money in the World, apart from Plummer’s and Michelle Williams’ strong performances.  And don’t get me talking about Mark Wahlberg, who is instantly forgettable.

I could sense something was off from the prologue when the music that was used didn’t set the right mood—it felt too nonchalant, maybe even mildly amusing.  This foreshadows the entire film’s lack of a strong, consistent tone, which is essential in a film like this.  As a kidnapping thriller, it needs to feel suspenseful to work effectively, but this didn’t come across through Scott’s craft and technique, which is almost always immaculate.

Verdict:  As admirable as Ridley Scott's ticking time-bomb decision to recast and reshoot the film is, this is an unexceptional work that struggles to elevate itself despite strong performances by Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams.

GRADE: C+







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