All the Money in the World

           

            1973.  Rome.  A 16-year-old American boy is out roaming the streets by the red light district, having fun flirting with the hookers, and practicing his Italian.  They tell him that the streets are no place for him, but he assures them he can take care of himself.  And no sooner are those words out of his mouth than the van comes roaring up behind him, and he's kidnapped.  Just like that.

            Except this is no ordinary 16-year-old.  Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer) is the grandson of THE J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer, ironically, no relation to Charlie), the richest man in the world.  The paramilitary group which pulled off the kidnapping assumed they would be paid millions immediately.  They were wrong.

            J. Paul Getty is not about to pay any ransom.  He says he has lots of grandchildren, and if he starts paying ransom for one of them, he'll have to pay for all of them.  So he adamantly refuses to negotiate with the terrorists.  Since his son, J. Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan) is an addict and non-functional, that leaves it up to Junior's ex-wife, Gail (Michelle Williams).  She will cooperate with the police, and she will talk to the kidnappers, because she wants her son back.  But she doesn't have any money.  In the backstory, we're informed that she bargained for custody of the children in exchange for accepting no money for alimony or support payments.

            But the problem is that now we have an open-ended standoff.  The kidnappers can't believe they can't get money out of J. Paul Getty.  And they don't believe that Gail Getty is broke.  Meanwhile, Paul languishes in a makeshift cell, not eating well, and beginning to despair that he'll ever get out alive.

            It's a long, tense, humorless account, but fascinating in its almost farcical components.  Christopher Plummer delivers a nefarious billionaire who more resembles Ebenezer Scrooge before Christmas:  all greed and no heart.  He revels in his collection of valuable things, but seems to have no relationships with persons, other than his hired staff.  He's the richest man in the world, but it's never enough.

            Michelle Williams shines as the Mom who's caught in the middle, helpless to do anything but decide when to judiciously make desperate gestures.  Attempting to assist her is the old man's security chief, ex-CIA agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg).  He at least protects her from the ubiquitous agggressive paparazzi, who make privacy impossible. 

            This movie has all the pathos in the world.  But it somehow fails to deliver empathy in the viewer.  More like morbid curiosity.  It's intense, grim, and grimy, but it's not fun.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association