All the Money in the World

February, 2018, Drama

 All the Money in the World

 British filmmaker Ridley Scott is something of a cottage industry in the feature film business, with 41 directorial credits on movies as diverse as Thelma & Louise, Blade Runner and The Martian. His 53-year career spans numerous genres and his training as a set designer and creator of highly successful ad campaigns on television can be found in his visual style and attention to telling detail. As he nears his 81st birthday later this year, he can look back with pride on the sum total of his creative output. So why does this re-enactment of the notorious 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson have the look and feel of a tabloid newspaper?

Perhaps it’s because there was an incredibly last-minute casting change (Christopher Plummer for Kevin Spacey) as the victim’s miserly grandfather J. Paul Getty and the technical problems that arose because of the extraordinary number of scenes that had to be re-shot. Whatever the reasons, the movie  looks haggard on arrival, as though the talent behind it just ran out of energy and enthusiasm for the project.

All the Money begins with the kidnapping of then 16-year old J. Paul 3rd, before pivoting to an extended period of negotiation between the boy’s mother Gail Harris Getty (Michelle Williams) and Fletcher Chase, (Mark Wahlberg) who works as a bag man for Gail’s notoriously cheap father in law. The screenplay shifts back and forth from the Getty family to the kidnappers; Getty senior refuses to spend a dime to get his namesake released and months pass before a severed ear and mounting public pressure finally produce a greatly-reduced ransom largely financed by a tax structure & loan agreement designed to minimize the transaction costs involved.

All this to-ing and fro-ing might have made for a terrific script, but writer David Scarpa’s 2 & ¼ hour screenplay drains most of the tension from the seemingly endless negotiations that are exacerbated by the tepid performances of Williams and Wahlberg. Only Plummer seems to be enjoying himself here, surely because his Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor will undoubtedly provide more juicy roles for his already long and illustrious career.

 Shot in often-grainy scenes with a large and indistinguishable cast of villains, All the Money boasts the cinematography of long-time collaborator Dariuscz Wolski whose work on Scott’s The Martian contributed to the dazzling visual impact of that film. Here, everything on screen looks pinched, gritty and hand-me down, which coincides with the slap-dash feeling of the movie as a whole.

The Verdict? Lots of talent devoted to a very mediocre work. How ironic that the best part of this one comes from an actor brought in as last-minute damage control.

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