All The Money In The World escapes scandal, remains undistinguished

Replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer as Jean Paul Getty is likely the only reason anyone will remember this kidnapping thriller

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (Ridley Scott). 132 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Monday (December 25). See listing. Rating: NNN

All The Money In The World will forever be listed in Ridley Scott’s filmography as The One Without Kevin Spacey In It, thanks to the producer/director’s decision to replace the disgraced actor’s performance as billionaire J. Paul Getty with Christopher Plummer in eleventh-hour reshoots.

Honestly, that’s likely the only reason anyone will ever remember this film. It’s a competent, undistinguished exercise in thriller mechanics without any real weight or insight. (Remember Body Of Lies? That’s my point.)

All The Money In The World dramatizes and fictionalizes the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in Italy, and the months over which the 16-year-old heir was held hostage while his grandfather refused to pay the $17 million ransom.

David Scarpa’s script splits the focus between the terrorized Paul (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher), who forms a nervous friendship with one of his captors (Romain Duris), and his mother Gail (Michelle Williams), who spends the picture flying back and forth between Italy and England in the company of Getty fixer Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), pleading with her former father-in-law to negotiate with Paul’s abductors. And time ticks by, for the characters and the audience alike.

Scott shoots the whole thing with grim efficiency and high production values, but he’s more interested in the elder Getty than anyone else in the picture – and his conception of Getty as a petty, mercurial Scrooge just isn’t that interesting, try as Plummer might to find the vulnerability underneath the imperiousness.

But at least he’s trying one can’t help but wince at the thought of Spacey raging around the sets in old-age makeup. Whatever else it might have been, this version of All The Money In The World has to be a better picture without him.

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