Money can't buy happiness, or even a good movie at times.
Midway through Ridley Scott's new film, All the Money in the World, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer subbing in for the departed Kevin Spacey) is asked what he'll pay for the safe return of his grandson, Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), and his answer is succinct: "Nothing". That is also what I'd advise you to pay in order to see this movie.
I went into this film wanting to like it all for the wrong reasons. Scott made a courageous gamble in recasting Plummer six weeks before the release, yanking the ugly storm cloud that Spacey would have brought the film. It was a risky move and while the finished product isn't a bad film, it is quite forgettable.
Michelle Williams plays the kidnapped teen's mother, a woman who married into the Getty family, and now must depend on Getty's adviser and former C.I.A. spy (Mark Wahlberg) to convince the older man to give up the cash before the kid loses limb(s).
One would think that Williams, Wahlberg, and Plummer would make a movie strong, but in the end, the efforts were superficial and ordinary. There's nothing extraordinary about this film, and with Scott attached, there should be.
Danny Scarpa's screenplay takes the true story and sprinkles in some extra drama for theatrical benefits, but the thrilling moments of this film (with the exception of one scene that likens itself to Reservoir Dogs) land with a thud and don't truly heighten the tension.
Getty's fortune was rumored to outweigh anyone in history, due to the man's ability to slip between the taxpaying requirements and legal perimeters. This man put money in a charitable trust only so it wouldn't be taxed, not to actually donate it to a charity. He did have all the money in the world, but favored things that didn't carry a heartbeat nor asked him for money, like paintings and houses. If the movie has a villain, it's Plummer's ruthless billionaire-and that has positive and negative effects on the film's effectiveness.
You will spend the whole film wondering what Spacey could have done with the role, because while he is scum in real life, the man is just as capable of an actor as Plummer. The role change seemed noble a few weeks ago, but during the film, it is only a distraction. You spend the entire film hating Getty's guts, but also think about the depths that Spacey could have taken him. Plummer just plays him straight on, like a guy who read the script six weeks before the film's release. It hurts the film's impact.
Wahlberg is an underrated actor, but he's got nothing to work with here. Playing a guy who cares more about the cut of a suit than carrying a gun for protection, Wahlberg's Fletcher Chase has a cool name, but that's about it. There's a scene near the end of the film where you literally scream for him to jump into action. He's a dud.
Williams is a great actress, but even she goes through the motions here as a woman who got herself into an unfortunate family and situation. She is the one you are rooting for here, but the script and plot doesn't do much for her. It's like being given great ingredients, but a bad cook to mishandle the execution.
Scott knows how to construct a desirable thriller, but his efforts are missing in action here. I didn't leave this film knowing this was a Scott production. In reality, it felt like a bad Tony Scott film.
All the Money in the World isn't a complete waste of time, but it's a by-the-numbers thriller that doesn't do anything particularly well. The story about the casting change overshadows the actual strength of the film, and that's not a good thing. Nothing distinguishes this film from any other thriller. The message is that cash stacked around a human without a heart is the root of all evil isn't exactly new in this make-believe town, so the efficiency of the film is hindered.
I didn't leave the movie blown away or happy; I simply wondered if it would have been better with Spacey in it.
Stay home and watch Thelma and Louise instead.