It’s a wonder that the incredible tale of the 1973 kidnapping of oil billionaire J. Paul Getty’s grandson hasn’t been dramatized before (for the record, there is presently a TV series covering the same ground), but as it stands this high-concept, low-ambition rendering by Ridley Scott has become more famous for its casting than for whatever insights it brings to the case, and for what it’s worth it’s difficult to believe that Kevin Spacey, unceremoniously dumped from the film after his scenes had been shot, would have captured the peculiar oily charm of Getty the way Christopher Plummer has.
Unfortunately, Plummer is more or less a sideshow to the intrigue, which relies on Michelle Williams as Getty’s daughter-in-law and Mark Wahlberg as his fixer (and ex-spy) to deal with the kidnapping itself. Williams generates enough heated anxiety to convince you she’s a worried mother, but Wahlberg’s performance is mainly about the wardrobe: without the serious eyewear and the tailored three-piece suits it would be difficult to believe he ever passed a civil service exam. Romain Duris as the warm-hearted leader of the kidnappers is practically unrecognizable, not because he’s playing an Italian, but because he exudes none of the usual mischievousness that made him a French screen star. But the real find here is Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) as Getty III, whose blend of privileged innocence and acute terror points toward a movie that might have been more interesting than what Scott, who doesn’t seem to know if he wants to concentrate on the crime or Getty Sr.’s response to it, ends up with.
Which isn’t to say the movie isn’t entertaining, but rather that the disjointed narrative, which leaps freely from the picturesque Italian countryside to Getty’s palatial lair to the mother’s upscale Rome apartment—when it isn’t sidling into a flashback—fails to build a head of steam for what is played as a momentous climax. The final chase is almost ludicrous in its attempt to produce excitement where none is really needed. This story should rightfully sell itself.
Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Ikebukuro Cinema Rosa (03-3986-3713), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024), Aeon Cinema Itabashi (03-3937-1551).
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