Greed

Julius Geezer: Steve Coogan in Greed
Verdict: 
7/10 - Greed is a fun takedown of obnoxious plutocrats - but fails to get its teeth into the absurdity of the world we now live in.
Release Date: 
Friday, February 21, 2020
Written by: 

Greed stars Steve Coogan as an obnoxious retail mogul whose birthday plans fall apart.

7

As someone who is now close to British national treasure status, Steve Coogan is an unlikely figure - as he has made a career of playing grotesque, self-serving, and often obnoxious characters.

Although most famous for Alan Partridge, one of his best screen roles was in director Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People, in which he captured Manchester music promoter Tony Wilson's charm, silliness, and occasionally infuriating vanity.

Now, Coogan has reteamed with Winterbottom for their new film Greed, and he tries a more difficult trick with shameless billionaire retail mogul Sir Richard McCreadie, a not very thinly disguised (but better looking) parody of disgraced Topshop chief Sir Philip Green.

The film follows McCreadie as he prepares for a tasteless Caligulan 60th birthday bash on the Greek island of Mykonos.

Part Fyre Festival, part satire of celebrity parties that Coogan has no doubt found himself in the middle of, the film depicts how everything begins to go wrong for McCreadie once the reality of the source of his wealth collides with public opinion and reality.

Celebrities pull out en masse (resulting in the hiring of lookalikes), and he actually has to spend time with his first wife (Isla Fisher) and underlings. Plus, we get glimpses of the dark truths - sweatshops, bullying, tax avoidance - behind the imitation glamour.

 

If this sounds like a fun way to spend a few hours at the cinema, it is. Coogan is underrated as an actor precisely because he is so good at caricaturing his subjects.

What Partridge did for breakfast TV bloviators, he does here for reptilian retailers.

Winterbottom, as you'd expect from someone who has worked with his star often, also knows how to conduct proceedings - doing so in a style close to mockumentary, but has a Hollywood sheen that reflects the fact that McCreadie's entire existence is based on the selling and monetisation of a fantasy.

Just as his shops tell us we can paper over our insecurities with a $20 dress or shirt, McCreadie tries to Polyfilla the giant chip on his shoulder with proximity to celebrity.

Fun as all this is, however, the satire doesn't quite bite.

At first, you think it might be because shows like HBO's Succession have painted more subtly damning pictures of the super-rich than a film that revels in the ugliness of their superficial lifestyle.

But then something else comes to mind - the people Coogan and Winterbottom are parodying are essentially unmockable. Fyre Festival, WeWork, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Donald Trump - all are more absurd than anything that happens in Greed

Green, who the jokes are so obviously pinned on, is a rank amateur plutocrat by comparison.

That said, there's much to enjoy in Greed for those who love Coogan and Winterbottom's work.

It's just sadly, when you leave the cinema and check the news on your phone, you're more likely to see something that causes you to cackle with despair than anything the pair can come up with onscreen.

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