Review / ‘All the Money in the World’ (M) ***

WHILE director Ridley Scott’s decision to dump completed scenes in the version of this dramatic film and engage Christopher Plummer to replace Kevin Spacey as J Paul Getty may raise some eyebrows, it has not stranded the finished version high and dry on the coast of creative merit.

The history of cinema is replete with big name performers of both sexes who preferred lovers equipped with the same anatomical bits. Whatever his sexual preference, Spacey is a very talented actor, even if it may be a while before anybody offers him another contract.

So in telling the story of the kidnapping of Getty’s favourite grandson Paul (Charlie Plummer), how does Christopher Plummer playing the 1970s world’s richest man stack up? Jolly well, that’s how.

And Michelle Williams, with whom I have been relatively unimpressed in past roles, does a fine job playing Paul’s mother Gail, confronting the world’s stingiest billionaire whom Paul’s Calabrian kidnappers wanted to pay a ransom of $US7 million, a rather more impressive amount in 1973 than it might seem today when billionaires are much thicker on the ground.

Mark Wahlberg is satisfactory as ex-CIA operative Fletcher Chase whom Getty senior engaged to help Gail in her task.

According to American magazine “Vanity Fair”, John Pearson’s 1995 book “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty” is the basis of David Scarpa’s screenplay.

“VF” considers that book to be rooted in truth. After realising that (Paul) had, in fact, been kidnapped by criminals, Getty still blamed (him) “for getting kidnapped in the first place and thereby involving him, his grandfather, with the dreaded Mafia,” according to Pearson. “For the truth was that the old man had been terrified of kidnap even before Paul disappeared.”

The film plays a little with the truth. But that doesn’t diminish its tensions. Roman Duris plays Cinquante who, as hungry as any kidnapper for a share of the ransom, showed some concern for the boy, although not enough to prevent one of his ears from being sliced off.

You’d be entitled to wonder, why did Scott make this movie? My theory is, to make money. That seems somehow apposite, albeit a tad cynical.

At all cinemas


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