If you would like to see what happens if they had set the movie Ransom in 1970s Italy, then you will probably like this.
- Screenplay by David Scarpa (The Last Castle, The Day the Earth Stood Still)
- Directed by Ridley Scott (the Alien Franchise, American Gangster, Gladiator)
- Starring Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, Blue Valentine), Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, The Departed, and a lot of enjoyable comedies) and Christoper Plummer (Beginners, The Last Station)
- Budget of $50m
My initial thoughts
John Paul Getty once said “there are always opportunities through which businessmen can profit handsomely if they will only recognize and seize them”….Unfortunately Scott’s film doesn’t quite seize the opportunity of this fascinating tale.
The ‘ccc’ review
The true story about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (played by Charlie Plummer but in no way related), grandson of billionaire John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). Cash-strapped mother Gail (Michelle Williams), who has been cut out from the family fortune, is trying to raise the ransom money to get her son released. In her desperation, she attempts to convince her former father-in-law, a notorious tough negotiator and ruthless businessman, to help. Oh did I mention he happened to be the richest man not just in the world, but in history.
This is THE ex-Kevin Spacey film – who was going to be pushed on the Oscar campaign for best supporting actor but instead was axed from the completed film, following sexual harassment allegations, and replaced with Christopher Plummer. But even in making a decisive and swift decision, the film again found itself mired in controversy after it was found that Wahlberg was paid $1.5m for the reshoot and Michelle Williams was reportedly paid only $80 a day in expenses for the extra work. The saying goes that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but I am not sure how that works when there is a double dose of it.
I digress. The film effectively has three interweaving relationships: the grandson and his kidnapper Cinquanta, a mother’s search for her son alongside the negotiator and what it would take to convince John Paul Getty to help. But this is where the film struggles. You never quite get the sense that the twists and turns in the film actually twist and turn you that much. It chops and changes too much between an attempted tense ransom story (which it isn’t) and an attempted biopic of Getty’s ruthlessness (which it sometimes does). You are never quite grabbed by the film, unless Plummer himself is on screen.
And when Plummer is onscreen, this is when the film is at its very best. He comes across cold, ruthless and sometimes unbelievable, yet you are continuously drawn into Getty’s world. The performance is highly commendable and should be widely recognised (which is demonstrated by Plummer’s Golden Globe nomination) given reshoots were done in 10 days. This is the second time Scott had to do a major reshoot following the untimely death of Oliver Reid in Gladiator. Perhaps it may have helped that Plummer had the experience of meeting the real life Getty at parties in the 60s.
Michelle Williams does a good job of playing the mother but never fully convinces and Wahlberg’s character as the negotiator never really fits at all, although there are some brilliant lines delivered in typical Wahlberg style. Ultimately they are both overshadowed by Plummer.
I am not sure if overall the film was affected massively by the reshoots but it certainly could not have helped. The film didn’t quite know what it wanted to be and perhaps better to focus on one story. I would definitely watch another John Paul Getty centric film again. Just a shame I had to spend some of MY money in the world to watch this one.
What are my final Thoughts
The film didn’t quite hit the heights that it is capable of, but Plummer’s performance amid the late changes is something to be applauded. I did find myself wanting to find out more about the Getty Story. This is definitely a film that I would wait to be released on TV. Funnily enough, there is an upcoming TV series coming out in March 2018 called Trust, directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) with a strong cast led by Donald Sutherland (Without Limits, the Hunger Games franchise) who plays the enigmatic billionaire – let’s see if that fares any better.
📺 😐Wait for it to come on TV