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Review: "All The Money In The World"

When Sony Pictures decided to abruptly pull their latest film All the Money in the World from AFI Fest in November, people were surprised. Then when director Ridley Scott announced he planned to replace the film's star Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer a mere month before its scheduled Christmas release date, people were downright shocked. And now, in the most impressive of ways, Scott actually pulled this last minute reshoot off in only nine days!

But what about the film itself? Outside of all this behind the scenes drama, is it any good? I’ll give you the short answer: Yes.

All the Money in the World is based on the later years of real life American industrialist J. Paul Getty (Plummer), who went a long way from his Minnesota roots to become—at the time—the richest private citizen who had ever lived (which with inflation today would be close $9 billion). The central plot focuses on an infamous and publicly-followed incident where one of Getty’s grandsons (played by Charlie Plummer) was kidnapped in Rome, Italy and Getty refused to pay the initial $17 million ransom; Getty argued that if he paid it, what's to stop other kidnappers from nabbing one of his other fourteen grandchildren?

Plummer is very good in the role and considering the hurried production of his scenes with principal co-stars Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg just a few weeks ago, it's a testament to Scott's craftsmanship--not to mention impressive pool of filmmaking resources--that such a stunt was pulled off. Plummer plays it straight and gives Getty a cold presence with ever-so-little humility crackling through. You eventually love to hate the cheap old bastard. Watching the film though, I couldn't help but imagine what Spacey would've brought to the role, under all that latex and heavy makeup. Would he have pulled a Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour and chomped out every bit of dialogue? Or would he have withdrew the theatrics and internalized a bitter old tycoon, mostly relying on small gestures and a beady-eyed glare? 

From an editing standpoint, Claire Simpson seamlessly brings it all together, from the pre-exiting footage to the newly filmed Plummer content (except for a bad CGI face overly in a scene that takes place in Saudi Arabia).

Williams is Plummer's equal here, carrying most of the film's emotional weight on her shoulders. It's a tricky role, because as the mother of the kidnapped grandson we're automatically empathetic with her predicament, but we're also aware of the dynamics of her relationship with the Getty family (she's Getty senior's ex-daughter-in-law). You see, she's not exactly the rosy cheeked mother either; she has to be cunning, tough and as coldly precise as an X-ACTO knife in all her meetings, encounters and altercations. Wahlberg is agreeable as Getty's CIA muscle. I kind of admired how him and Williams go against the predictable love story we're cringing will emerge. Added, Scott makes good use of the film’s R-rating during an ear cutting scene that rivals Reservoir Dogs.

All in all, Scott's film should do well as counter-programming for the year's end outing at the movies; it's something not too cerebral for moviegoing adults to enjoy, get over and then go home and plan their New Year's Eve celebrations.