MOVIE REVIEW: Plummer fills in the blank Spacey
CHRISTOPHER Plummer's monstrous performance as J. Paul Getty, a man addicted to wealth, dominates this heart-pounding thriller.
The veteran actor's turn as the close-fisted oil tycoon who refused to pay the ransom demanded by his grandson's kidnappers is so psychologically complex, it's hard to believe he was a last-minute ring in.
But as has now been widely documented, Plummer only stepped into the role after the film had already been completed - with Kevin Spacey as Getty.
The 11th hour switch adds yet another layer to this extraordinary story, based on John Pearson's 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty.
In All the Money in the World, director Ridley Scott suggests everyone has their price.
While one would hope the removal of Spacey from the project in the wake of sexual assault allegations was motivated, at least in part, by a social conscience, money was certainly the driving force behind the decision.
With Spacey in the role, the film would surely have bombed at the box office.
The production dramas of All the Money in the World provides strangely fitting coda to the events that unfold on screen, but shouldn't be allowed to overshadow them.
The film stands alone as a gripping psychological thriller that pays stylistic homage to the films of the '70s in which it is set.
Being a Getty, as kidnap victim John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation) tells us in a voice over, is an extraordinary thing.
"We look like you, but we're not like you. It's like we're from another planet where the force of gravity is so strong it bends the light."
This rarefied atmosphere ultimately proves uninhabitable, due to the greenback's toxicity in such extreme volumes.
As the American billionaire's daughter-in-law Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) dryly observes at one point during the film, a Getty can't go to the toilet for too long without someone joking they have been kidnapped.
Such humour, together with suggestions that Getty's grandson had often talked about staging his own disappearance, initially leads Mark Wahlberg's former CIA operative to dismiss the kidnapping as a hoax.
The 17-year-old is grabbed by members of a Calabrian crime ring in the red light district near Rome's Piazza Farnese in July 1973 and later on sold to a far more ruthless and powerful syndicate.
Williams plays his mother - "I'm not a real Getty, I just married one" - as a woman with deep reserves of strength. When her son's ear arrives in the post, she realises that she has to beat her father-in-law at his own game.
The most shocking scene in the film has nothing to do with the men who kidnap the young Getty, it's the one in which his billionaire grandfather forces Harris to sign over custody of her children to their junkie father in order to secure the money to free her son.
As the title suggests, Scott's film is essentially a morality tale, but one told without a shred of sentimentality.
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (MA15+)
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg
Verdict: An emotionally economical thriller