Let’s take a moment and talk about the elephant in the room: It was a well-known fact that Kevin Spacey was a douchebag among douchebags, and I have no problem with his having being digitally removed from Ridley Scott’s latest work. If only we could have digitally removed Scott from Alien: Covenant I would’ve had a better summer. Thankfully, I can say that Spacey’s excision is perhaps the least problematic aspect of All the Money in the World, a film about a kidnapping that drags on long enough to feel like one itself.
Based on the factual abduction and ransom of J. Paul Getty III, the film drifts aimlessly through byzantine back alleys of what could only be termed intrigue were I feeling more generous, with its central cast struggling against the tide of narrative inertia thanks to a listless and overlong script from David Scarpa. Michelle Williams performs valiantly as the beleaguered mother of Getty III (Charlie Plummer), harried ex-wife of the drug addled Getty Jr. (Andrew Buchan) and unimpressed daughter-in-law of “the old man with the money” (Christopher Plummer).
The digital surgery that allowed Plummer to replace Spacey is typically pretty inconspicuous, with only a few scenes bearing definitive signs of tampering in post. And while Plummer is as excellent as usual, I couldn’t quite escape the sense of morbid curiosity surrounding Spacey’s performance — despite being thoroughly in support of the decision to replace him and impressed by the alacrity of that decision’s execution at the 11th hour, I’m dying to see the cut footage.
No, Christopher Plummer is not the problem here. He is perfectly capable of carrying Spacey’s role — this film’s issues begin at script level and spread outward exponentially. The real issue is that the picture is self-important awards bait, indulgent to a fault and lacking in any real sense of purpose. It’s a movie that is every bit as excessive as the fortune of its subject, but far less interesting than the art collection he used to shield it from the tax man. It’s too long, too pretentious and far too much late-period Ridley Scott for my taste.
Add to those problems an absolutely inexplicably and inexcusably cast Mark Wahlberg as Getty’s CIA associated fixer — who doesn’t seem capable of fixing much of anything — and you’ve got a recipe for near disaster. Like the real-life kidnapping, disaster was narrowly averted, but not by much. Scott ekes some style points out of his Italian setting and the palatial Getty estate, but the spiraling aerial shots and constant shaky cam are threadbare tricks he wore out almost two decades ago in Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. Apparently having nothing new to bring to the table, Scott falls back on his budget to pull off anything resembling an award-worthy movie — the car rental budget for all of those classic Italian beauties must have cost more per day than the entire process of cutting Spacey — but at the end of the day, this film looks as if it cost all the money in the world but won’t make a fraction of it back. Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.
Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande