“Greed” – “Greed is good.” – Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), “Wall Street” (1987)
Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan) – the head of Monda, an international apparel corporation – is filthy rich.
Well, Monda just paid a 1.2 billion (British) pound dividend to its owner, McCreadie’s wife Samantha (Isla Fisher). Samantha then purchased a yacht for 100 million that proudly scoots around Monaco with no apparent altruistic purpose, and hey, that leaves 1.1 billion to fund her favorite 2020 U.S. Presidential candidate! Okay, don’t expect the latter, although one has to imagine that Richard and Samantha donate a few quid to some shifty British politicians from time to time.
Actually, Richard and Samantha are divorced now, but “Greed” shifts so many times to the distant and recent past, it’s hard to keep track of essential, important facts. Then again, director/co-writer Michael Winterbottom does center his film around Sir Richard’s 60th birthday party (and the planning for it) in present-day, so we can anchor ourselves there.
Yes, the grand to-be celebration on a heavenly Greek island is a gaudy illustration of extreme excess, complete with a team of paid celebrity lookalikes – like a fake-Rod Stewart, fake-Simon Cowell and fake-Kylie Minogue – and a treehouse version of a coliseum that also includes a full-grown lion.
This, of course, begs the question: Is the real Kylie Minogue not available?
Naturally, the film’s perspective is clearly available: the filthy rich can get awfully dirty to find their fortunes. At least Sir Richard did, and Coogan is smartly-cast as The King of High Streets. Coogan can deliver on-screen insults and grievances faster a motivated, well-oiled Tommy gun can spit out bullets. Sir Richard regularly rips apart his clothing suppliers and yanks any traces of profit out of their pockets to suit his own needs.
He doesn’t have a conscience, and Winterbottom argues that Richard never had one, as we see his life as a teen and throughout his working years through several questionable business deals. These flashbacks – that sporadically splash across the screen in five-minute increments over the movie’s 104-minute runtime – help recount Sir Richard’s dubious history that led him to become the full-fledged bully that he is today.
“Greed” is a morality tale, and one constructed with organic slews of memories from an intrinsically-provoked capitalist, but Coogan finds help through a couple key supporting players. Shirley Henderson ages herself 30 years to play Richard’s mother, as she carries a chip the size of Dublin on her narrow shoulders, and Dave Mitchell is an author/journalist who shadows Mr. McCreadie to discover nuggets of knowledge for his readers. Nick (Mitchell), however, usually has figurative doors slammed in his face, and while he struggles and bumbles for answers, Margaret McCreadie (Henderson) seems to know where all the bodies are buried, but no one would dare ask her.
On the other hand, Richard’s kids Finn (Asa Butterfield) and Lily (Sophie Cookson) aren’t given much to do other than mope and complain, and anyone working for McCreadie feels pretty much the same.
“Greed” attempts to be a comedy, but other than random over-the-top, disparaging remarks or occasional gaffes from Nick, there’s not much to laugh about. The movie feels a bit schizophrenic too, because it also delivers its piercing, cynical view of money and corruption through sobering illustrations between the haves and have-nots. Truth be told, the gilded streets of Monaco and the UK dismiss (or are unaware of) the Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar sweatshops.
Other than a peek into the troubling economic strife at the aforementioned locales, “Greed” doesn’t offer a wealth of reasons to sit through 104 minutes of Richard’s unchecked bad behavior. On the other hand, maybe we’ll look at a “Made in Bangladesh” t-shirt tag when doing our next load of laundry and pause for a moment to recall this movie’s clothing supply chain. Then again, maybe not. Regardless, this movie isn’t that great.
⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image credits: Sony Pictures Releasing International; Trailer credits: ONE Media