What went wrong here? I wondered as the credits rolled for All the Money in the World. A film made by Ridley Scott, former genius director, current recycler of old ideas, should have been at the least visually entertaining. A film starring Christopher Plummer as the insanely rich and greedy J. Paul Getty, should have offered some serious acting chops. Confession: Kevin Spacey would have been juicy and perfect in the role as the arch capitalist oil man. But you know why Spacey was replaced by Plummer, so that’s the end of that.
Even the always-charismatic Eternal City, Rome, couldn’t manage to inject interest into this languid (i.e. boring) revisitation of the infamous kidnapping of the Getty grand-son in the 70s. The 16 year old hippie (here played by Charlie Plummer) was abducted and held for $17 million ransom. The large sum was nothing compared to Getty the elder’s billions. But he refused to pay. Here’s where things should have quickened and gotten exciting. They didn’t.
In Scott’s curiously vacant hands the scenario just isn’t complex enough to hold 2 hours of cinema.
Also, the vocal work is distracting. I imagine this: Ridley Scott called up the widow of Heath Ledger (Michelle Williams), the always-reliable Mark Wahlberg and (ultimately) the 80something Christopher Plummer. Scott sat Williams and Plummer down in front of a screening of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. “Study those accents,” he told the two leads, as they watched Faye Dunaway and John Huston.
If you close your eyes during the Ridley Scott film, you’ll hear Faye Dunaway (doing her Katherine Hepburn thing) and John Huston delivering their lines. It is an eerie deja vu.
Then there are the excessive Italian stereotypes, liberally employed to help us hate young Getty’s kidnappers. People in the audience groaned audibly—I was one of them—as the “Italians” fought, danced, drank, laughed, and acted like the shameless, outlaw peasants that they were.
Scott forgot how to edit. He forgot how to motivate actors, and when they did muster some dramatic tension, he forgot how to give his actors lines worth saying.
Even the great Plummer, shaking his head as he examines the day’s stock market numbers, only served to remind me of the great Orson Welles as another financial giant in Citizen Kane.
To paraphrase Lord Acton: money corrupts and all the money in the world, corrupts absolutely.
What a waste of time!