Cheap Thrills: Our Review of ‘All the Money in the World’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - December 22, 2017
Cheap Thrills: Our Review of ‘All the Money in the World’

To its great credit, it only takes about 20 minutes or so to pass in All the Money in the World before you stop thinking about the potential difference between J.P. Getty being played by Christopher Plummer instead of Kevin Spacey.

The connection this film, about a real life high-profile kidnapping some fifty years ago, has to real life events of the last couple months is inescapable. Spacey, enduring fallout from sexual misconduct allegations and admissions, was removed and replaced by Plummer six weeks before the film was to be released.  You wouldn’t know it from watching, in part because Plummer is closer in age to the character he is playing than Spacey, and also that director Ridley Scott worked indefatigably to reshoot all the important scenes, which also involved bringing back two leads.

Those would be Michelle Williams, who plays Getty’s daughter-in-law, and Mark Wahlberg, his family’s fixer. Getty is estranged from the former and in need of that latter, both in part because he is the richest man in the world in the 1950s and 1960s. Gaining wealth by a combination of vision, thriftiness, opportunity, and selfishness, Getty becomes a target of extortion when a group of Italian criminals kidnaps one of his grandchildren in Rome. Getty has no interest in paying a ransom; not $17 million, not a dollar.

All the Money has many interests, and moves at a quick clip trying to cover as many angles as possible. It most notably explores the how and why behind Getty’s harsh worldview, deceit, and desire for riches. Plummer has a great charm that belies his cold, dead heart. His relationship with those around him is most fascinating, particularly Gail (Williams), with whom he has little respect and, as the film establishes early, has reason to try to get revenge on her – in his eyes.

There is also Chase (Wahlberg), a former CIA Agent who works as head of security and man in charge of setting up and closing deals around the world for Getty. He is tasked with figuring out who took his grandson Paulo, and how to get him back as cheaply as possible. Sometimes that means working with Gail and the local Italian police, and sometimes it means doing his own thing.

Then there is Paulo, who narrate the beginning of the film and then stops, but who we return to in various confinements, including one from which he nearly escapes. He develops a sort of friendship, or at least gets sympathy, from one kidnapper, who admits he is basically doing what needs to be done.

It is all about money, though, and there isn’t much subtlety in the condemnation of those who seek wealth and riches with disregard for family, friends, and humanity. But at times this film is a taut thriller, an absurd comedy, a dysfunctional family drama, and a historical account, and while good individually, they don’t always fit together.

A muted, color palette underscores the somber nature of the tale and the coldness of those involved, helping make All the Money a compelling, if not wide-ranging take on history.

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.