January 10, 2018 – This movie is based on the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in 1973 in Italy. It is a crime drama, combined with a family drama and a comedy of errors by everyone involved. It is amazing that Getty survived this mistake-ridden ransom scheme.
This movie is a lot more complex and interesting than I thought it would be. It is based on the book “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty” by John Pearson. John Paul Getty III (played by Charlie Plummer of “King Jack”) is kidnapped in Rome on July 10, 1973 and a ransom demand of $17 million is made.
His mother, Gail Harris (played by Michelle Williams of “Manchester by the Sea”) immediately contacts her son's grandfather, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer of “The Last Station”) who refuses to pay the ransom, even though he is the richest man in the world. Getty won't even talk to Gail, but does talk to reporters telling them that if he paid the ransom, all of his children and grandchildren would become targets for kidnappers.
Privately, Getty summons his head of security and top negotiator, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg of “Deepwater Horizon”) to handle the kidnapping. He tells Chase to find out who took his grandson and to get him back at the lowest cost possible. Gail is not impressed with Chase, who used to work for the CIA, but the two form an uneasy alliance.
Chase conducts his own investigation into the kidnapping and concludes, wrongly, that the young man arranged his own kidnapping to get money from his skinflint grandfather. In fact, the boy is in grave danger. Police finally get a lead in the case and find the rural hideout of the kidnappers. They get there too late, however, and the boy has been moved to another location.
Meanwhile young Getty is locked in a cell by his kidnappers, but develops a friendship with one kidnapper, Cinquanta (Romain Duris of “Mood Indigo”) who is also the man making the ransom phone calls to Gail. Cinquanta takes a liking to Getty, and is disturbed by the increasing level of violence against the young man, especially when more ruthless criminals take possession of the hostage.
Getty makes an escape attempt, but is recaptured with the aid of corrupt police. Some of his hair is cut off, as well as an ear. These are sent to an Italian newspaper to prove the kidnappers have the hostage. Gail has a truckload of newspapers showing a photo of her son with his ear cut off sent to his grandfather. This does help change his mind about paying the ransom.
Extensive negotiations are required to pry the ransom payment loose from the old man, as well as a stern talking-to by Chase, who quits his job in disgust. The negotiations include a scheme to make the ransom payment tax deductible and a scheme to force Gail to relinquish custody of her son. She agrees. All she wants is her son's freedom.
Getty's legendary cheapness is on full display with a scene of a pay phone that Getty had installed in his home in England, along with phone locks, to prevent visitors from using his private phones. There is a strange story of a small sculpture Getty gave to his grandson.
The comedy of errors is even stranger than what is told in this movie, such as the three week delay in a ransom demand because of an Italian postal strike in the midst of this hostage crisis. This strange dysfunctional family is even worse than depicted in the movie, unfortunately. This is a compelling story with interesting characters, expertly played by a fine cast of actors. This film rates a B.
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