wed 08/04/2020

Greed review - so-so satire of the über rich | reviews, news & interviews

Greed review - so-so satire of the über rich

Greed review - so-so satire of the über rich

Steve Coogan is the retail tycoon whose misdeeds are coming home to roost

From rag trade to riches: Steve Coogan in 'Greed'

Steve Coogan’s long partnership with director Michael Winterbottom is probably best known for The Trip and its spin-offs, involving Coogan’s comic culinary excursions alongside Rob Brydon.

Steve Coogan’s long partnership with director Michael Winterbottom is probably best known for The Trip and its spin-offs, involving Coogan’s comic culinary excursions alongside Rob Brydon. But for its serious undercurrents and disreputable subject matter, their new film is more akin to The Look of Love, in which Coogan played the sleazy Soho entrepreneur Paul Raymond. Here he is again, playing a real heel.  

This time, their story doesn’t’ start in sex clubs, but clothes shops. Coogan is Sir Richard McCreadie, aka “Greedy McCreadie”, public school drop-out turned billionaire “King of the High Street”, a retailer who could be accused of crimes against fashion as well as humanity, with a reputation for bankrupting every company he owns while taking millions for himself. 

The action centres on preparations for McCreadie’s 60th birthday party on the Greek island of Mykonos, a Gladiator-themed toga party and garishly extravagant exercise in self- congratulation, including paid-for celebrity guests, a makeshift amphitheatre and a lion named Clarence, caged and unhappy until making an inevitable contribution to proceedings. 

When not battling with ex-wife Samantha (Isla Fisher) over which are the more authentic – his gleaming new teeth or her new breasts – McCreadie is keen to clear the Syrian refugees off the public beach, lest they spoil his view. “It’s not me,” he insists, attuned to the public eye. “It’s our guests. Some of them are very superficial.”Flashbacks reveal the businessman’s rise, the accumulation of his immense wealth and the reason why he’s so keen to look good in Greece: a parliamentary select committee probing his dodgy dealings, said to involve asset stripping, tax evasion and the use of sweatshops. 

Strictly speaking, this is not a portrayal of Sir Philip Green, though there are similarities aplenty with the controversial Topshop boss and former owner of BHS, who just happened to throw a toga party for his 50th. Provenance is actually immaterial: Winterbottom, who also wrote the script, is satirising the fashion retail industry in general, for creating an über-rich elite that lives parasitically off the exploitation of others. 

It’s sometimes very funny, in an excurciating way. Coogan can’t go wrong when he’s given a character fuelled by vanity, hubris and bad taste; what he achieves with the teeth alone is miraculous. He’s well-matched by Fisher, as the partner in crime who, when presented with a £1.2 billion dividend, coos to the staff: “This is for all of you”. Shirley Henderson, another Winterbottom regular, is also good value as McCreadie’s fearsome mother. 

Overall, however, the film feels hit and miss. On the one hand, there's a certain pleasure in the Tarantino-like, wish-fulfilling outcome; on the other, entire scenes involving reality TV, local builders, McCreadie’s unhappy son (Asa Butterfield) and his bewildered biographer (David Mitchell) feel variously lame or under-nourished. And if the satire isn’t sufficiently maintained, too long spent with hideous people will eventually become tiresome. 

Coogan can’t go wrong when he’s given a character fuelled by such vanity, hubris and tastelessness

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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