Prior to its upcoming Christmas release date, you couldn't blame moviegoers for only knowing Ridley Scott's "All the Money in the World" as that film that chose to surgically remove Kevin Spacey after sordid allegations of the actor's inappropriate sexual contact with minors surfaced.
At the time the director and studio took the near unprecedented action of pulling a film already in the can and reshooting not just select scenes, but entire pivotal chunks of the film where Spacey was intricately involved. This required not just shooting Spacey's replacement, Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer, but recalling every key member of the all-star cast as nearly all of Spacey's scenes had him interacting with co-stars Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg.
No small undertaking... especially considering the studio was adamant it would hold firm to it's Christmas release.
So, now that the film is out the question arises... was it worth the monumental effort and expense? In a word... yes.
“All the Money” tells the true story of the 1973 Rome kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, portrayed by Charlie Plummer. Getty III was the 16-year-old grandson of the oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) and was held hostage in Calabria for months while his grandfather refused to pay the $17 million ransom, despite being worth $1.2 billion at the time.
After viewing the film it's quite clear why Scott was traumatized at the thought of having it tainted by the sordid Spacey drama considering how the film hinges on his performance. While Williams is the emotional core of the film, Plummer's ruthless turn as J. Paul Getty is the engine that makes the movie go. And it goes with a vengeance. Anyone not familiar with the film's back-story would have no idea the film was literally cut and pasted together after being filmed months apart as it's interwoven seamlessly.
Also, seeing Plummer so completely own the role you'd be hard pressed to explain the directors decision not to cast him in the first place. A first time Oscar winner at 82 for his role in the 2012 film "Beginners," Plummer is sure to nab another nomination, if not his second Oscar in five years. Perhaps he was just a late bloomer.
His sparring partner in the film is Williams and, at this point in her splendid career, she fails to surprise. You expect a powerhouse performance every time she's on screen and she consistently hits the mark. As Gail Harris, she portrays the divorced mother and estranged former daughter-in-law of Getty asked to come up with $17 million to secure the released of her kidnapped son. She more than holds her own in a battle of wits and wills with Plummer. You may come away wishing the two of them shared more screen time, but the time they do cohabitate the screen... sparks fly.
Williams, who has already nabbed a Golden Globes nomination for her performance, is also likely to see another Oscar nom come her way. She'll face tough competition.
Her role here may not be as fiery as Frances McDormand's scenery-chewing portrayal of the grieving mother of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," or have quite the gravitas that Meryl Streep displays... well in everything... but most recently as Washington Post matriarch Katherine Graham in "The Post," but Williams' steadfast portrayal of a woman willing to go to any lengths and suffer any indignity to secure the safe release of her son grounds the film.
It probably comes as no surprise in such a caliber of acting that Wahlberg comes across as the clear weak link. His stilted performance is reminiscent of his campy role in "The Happening," but in that film, everyone was acting badly so the performance blended in. Here, Wahlberg simply doesn't have the acting chops to keep up with superior co-stars.
That aside, the film hits the ground running. Anyone familiar with the broad strokes of the true-life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III already knows the ultimate outcome of the film and the random acts of violence that await them, so kudos to the filmmakers for maintaining a sense of suspense throughout.
Also, Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" now has company in the canon of films featuring a particular act of excruciating hostage torture. Be prepared to squirm in your seat.
Eric Hinton is the Senior Entertainment Editor for NBC Universal Owned and Operated Stations.