[Screen It]


(2017) (Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer) (R)

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Drama: A divorced mother tries to convince her former father-in-law, the richest man in the world, to pay a multi-million dollar ransom to free her teenage son.
It's 1973 and John Paul Getty III (CHARLIE SHOTWELL) is the teenage grandson of J. Paul Getty (CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER), the richest man in the world. While in Rome, he's kidnapped by a small group of people, led by a man known as Cinquanta (ROMAIN DURIS), who demand $17 million in ransom. The only problem is that his mother, Gail Harris (MICHELLE WILLIAMS), is no longer part of the Getty family, what with having divorced her alcoholic, drug-addicted husband, John Paul Getty Jr. (ANDREW BUCHAN), a few years earlier.

Despite having the money and stating he loves the teen, J. Paul refuses to pay the ransom, not only because that might lead to his other grandchildren likewise being kidnapped in copycat fashion, but also because fundamentally he's cheap. Nonetheless, he assigns his top business negotiator and ex-CIA agent Fletcher Chase (MARK WAHLBERG) to handle the case, but not pay any of the ransom. With the teen being kept in a remote part of Italy, Cinquanta makes frequent contact with Gail, demanding the money be paid in full, with her pleading that she's no longer part of the family.

As the months wear on, Cinquanta eventually "sells" Paul to a powerful mobster who allows Cinquanta to stay on as the teen's keeper. Tiring of delays and what they believe are lies about the money, the kidnappers threaten to cut off parts of Paul's body to prove they mean business. From that point on, Fletcher tries to help Gail resolve the issue and get her boy back.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
I have a friend who's in the executive protection agency business. It's not government-based like the secret service and he's not a personal bodyguard. In fact, he doesn't interact with his clients on a daily basis. Instead, he advises them about what steps they should take and procedures they should put in place to protect themselves and their families from the bad guys.

His clients aren't "regular" old millionaires, but instead are usually in the 10-figure stratosphere of financially well-to-do executives. And he said that what many desperate types do, especially upon being released from prison, is get their hands on the latest Forbes or Fortune "wealthiest people in the world" issues and make those on such lists their targets.

Of course, one of the biggest concerns is kidnapping for mega-figure ransoms, and that concern obviously stems from historical precedent. Probably the most famous is the kidnapping of Charles Lindberg's baby, followed by Patty Heart's kidnapping, both of which made international headlines. Surprisingly, I don't recall another famous snatching of a billionaire's grandchild, namely that of John Paul Getty III, the teenage descendant of J. Paul Getty, the famous oil tycoon and art collector.

That tale now comes to light in "All the Money in the World," a part historical and part fictitious look at the kidnapping that occurred one years before the more sensational Heart snatching. It's a decently constructed and executed drama that was overshadowed in the past month by the outing of star Kevin Spacey as a man who used his power and status in Hollywood to sexually abuse others. When news of that broke, it seemed this movie from director Ridley Scott was all but doomed.

And that's because the film was already completed with Spacey playing the pivotal part of the Getty patriarch. Fearing audiences wouldn't want to watch him in that role and thus would boycott the offering, the studio considered shelving the project, even with it having been earmarked as an end-of-the-year Oscar hopeful. But then Scott and others figured that if the figurative and literal stars would align, they could simply find another actor to play that part, reshoot those scenes, and re-edit the movie in time for its late December release slot.

The suddenly uber busy Christopher Plummer was selected, his scenes were shot in a hurry with editing being done just as quickly, and if you had not been aware of the casting crisis, you probably would not notice the replacement in the finished product. Not surprisingly, Plummer is excellent in the role. In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of his character in the two-hour-plus movie, mainly because he's far more interesting than his teenage grandson (Charlie Shotwell) who's been snatched by some money-hungry kidnappers (led by one played by Romain Duris) who ends up showing some compassion for his hostage).

Michelle Williams plays his mother, now divorced from the family due to having married the alcoholic and then drug-riddled son, who can't believe her ex-father-in-law won't pony up the ransom for his grandson. She's quite good in the role. Less so is Mark Wahlberg as a former CIA agent who now acts as Getty's top negotiator.

I don't know if his character existed in real-life, but he's been drawn in a lackluster fashion, both by screenwriter David Scarpa (adapting John Pearson's book) and Wahlberg in his performance. I've long said that the actor can be terrific with the right character and director, but he simply feels miscast and off here.

Scott and Scarpa initially have the storyline jumping around through time, mainly to show Getty's first interaction with his grandson back when he was just a boy, as well as the mindset of what made the billionaire tick. It's some interesting material, as are the interactions between Williams and Plummer's characters. The scenes featuring Wahlberg and those related to the kidnappers and their hostage (while necessary for the overall storyline) are less engaging or interesting.

Even so, the overall offering is easy enough to watch and flies by fairly quickly. And it certainly earns a bonus point or two for miraculously managing to survive a casting crisis and reshoot and re-edit that came about after the film was completed. "All the Money in the World" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed December 25, 2017 / Posted December 25, 2017

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