Greed Review

I believe it was a certain Mr Gekko who once said, greed is good.

In terms of cinema, he may have been onto something.

Filmgoers have always flocked to movies about money and its influence. Michael Winterbottom’s new film Greed, for example, shares its name with an Erich Von Stroheim film from 1924.

As long as cinema has existed, we seem to be equally appalled by and drawn to the stories of immoral types scrabbling their way to the top, and the humanity-draining effect that money brings.

Look at more recent films like Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which may have polarised audiences as to whether it was condemning or glorifying the main character and his values, but drew the crowds all the same.

In Scorsese’s case, the subject was a real person, but Winterbottom sidesteps this issue with a film which is in no way based on a real-life, knighted, UK retail tycoon…

Steve Coogan plays high street mogul Richard McCreadie, who is planning his sixtieth birthday bash in Greece.

Unruffled by parliamentary select committees, McCreadie envisions a shamelessly lavish affair, attended by celebrities and set against the background of a fake gladiatorial arena.

Did I mention that there’s an actual lion involved too?

McCreadie, also known as Greedy McCreadie, is shown in flashbacks as a smooth-talking boarding school dropout who haggles his way to the top, aided by his mother (Shirley Henderson) and an endless supply of self-confidence.

Greed has a documentary feel to it, interspersed as it is with interviews with key figures from McCreadie’s life, and then focussing on the run-up to the celebration itself.

The central birthday event attracts quite an entourage, including biographer Nick (David Mitchell), assistant Amanda (Dinita Gohil) and McCreadie’s daughter Lily (Sophie Cookson), who is hilariously followed by Pearl Mackie’s camera crew, Kardashian-style.

The supporting cast in general deserves high praise: from Isla Fisher’s ex-wife to Tim Key’s flustered foreman, there is a wealth of acting and comic talent on display.

Despite the ensemble’s high calibre, Coogan’s performance still overpowers all else, which is part of the problem.

It feels like there are two good movies here: one, featuring Coogan and friends larking about abroad in the style of The Trip; and the other, which is a serious piece about capitalism, immigration and inequality.

The former works well due to Coogan’s ability to play obnoxious but likeable; but Coogan’s charisma makes it difficult to truly, truly loathe the character, which in turn undercuts the more serious points raised by the film.

Comedic ad-libbing uncomfortably rubs shoulders with exposition scenes around financial wranglings and legality not equating morality. Take a scene where McCreadie mercilessly berates an interior designer (Charlie Cooper): we should be disgusted by the behaviour but instead it plays as funny.

It’s clear what was aimed for, and both movies are separately satisfying, but do not quite meld together as a whole.

The cast is on top form and it’s funnier than expected, but in giving us a laugh-along comedy and trying to raise serious issues, Greed seems to be trying to have its cake and eat it.

Which is a bit greedy really, isn’t it?

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

February 2020