Wealth corrupts in All the Money in the World, and absolute wealth, well, you know the saying. Ridley Scott's wintry gray thriller about a famous kidnapping and the miser who refused to pay his grandson's ransom plays like a cautionary thriller about greed. It's a subject Hollywood knows plenty about, embodied here by a monomaniacal master of the universe.
That miser/master is J. Paul Getty, and as you may have heard, he's played by Christopher Plummer. Scott and the film's producers initially shot Money with Kevin Spacey in the rapacious Getty role. Then Spacey went down in the recent flurry of sexual misconduct flames, and the filmmakers reshot all of his scenes with the pinch-hitting Plummer. There are no visible seams here, and Plummer, 88, gives a masterful, twinkle-eyed performance. He brings wrinkles of mystery, pride and mischief to Getty's cheapness.
The rest of the film is pretty good, too. Scott remains one of the industry's top craftsmen. You can sense his fastidiousness in the smallest details: the ethereal echo of a pop song playing in a cavernous mansion, or the pacing of Money's climactic foot chase through nocturnal Italian alleys. Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer (no relation) and Romain Duris deliver strong support. When the narrative lags there's still always something to admire onscreen. Lurking always in the background is a layered insight into wealth for wealth's sake, the moral rot that sets in when enough is never enough.
All the Money in the World (B+)
R (language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content). 132 minutes. Opens Christmas Day in area theaters.