Ridley Scott’s new film is “inspired by the true events” surrounding the kidnapping of billionaire John Paul Getty’s grandson in Italy in 1973. Getty played by Christopher Plummer adopts the position that he will not negotiate with kidnappers because, as he rationalizes it, if he were to do so once he would endanger the lives of his 14 other grandchildren in the future; which is of course exactly the stance most western governments would take today if one of their citizen’s suffered the same fate.
But unsurprisingly a Hollywood film isn’t interested in championing the views of a hard nosed and parsimonious multi billionaire but directs our sympathies to his daughter in law (Michelle Williams) who is desperate to secure her son’s release from kidnappers who are disbelieving that the richest man in the world – as Getty was at the time – will not pay a cent towards the ransom demand. He does however ask ex CIA operative and current employee Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to investigate the case. Inevitably his loyalties transfer towards Williams as the stakes get higher, though we are at least spared an unnecessary sub plot about a developing romance.
Its an interesting set up and there are some stand our scenes where Scott’s directorial flair comes to the fore, – an opening black and white sequence homaging La Dolce Vita and the film’s one violent scene which is more gruesome than the equivalent moment in Reservoir Dogs, – but it has weaknesses too. A rather unconvincing relationship develops between Romain Duris as the “good kidnapper” with his victim Charlie Plummer (no relation). And whilst tension mounts, it only does so to a point. In fact take away the Hollywood A listers and you have a script that rarely rises above that of a TV movie, competent but hardly exhilarating.
Some of these problems are quite possibly attributable to last minute recasting following Kevin Spacey’s fall from grace. Christopher Plummer is very watchable and is up for several awards however, I found myself wondering how much more sinister Getty would have appeared if the little twinkle in Plummer eyes was replaced by the cold malevolence in Kevin Spacey’s.
The film makes some astute observations about the links between excessive wealth and dysfunctional families but ultimately it doesn’t fully deliver on its potential. If you’ve got all the money in the world you’ll certainly have more exciting things to do than watch this and if you operate on a more restricted budget, well, you might chose to save a few quid here and wait for this one on VOD.