No, this isn’t a rerelease of the Erich von Stroheim 1929 silent classic, but Michael Winterbottom’s new satirical drama, in which Steve Coogan plays notorious and somewhat disgraced entrepreneur Sir Phillip Green in all but name (despite the filmmakers insisting he isn’t a direct inspiration). In all but name means Coogan’s character, Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie, is a thoroughly vile, bullying, self-obsessed, grasping businessman who has got rich by exploiting Sri Lankan sweatshops, tax loopholes, and a variety of other barely legal financial shenanigans.
Following a humiliating grilling before a House of Commons select committee, McCreadie is due to celebrate his 60th birthday party in Greece – an elaborate shindig in Roman toga attire due to contain a variety of paid celebrity guests, and a number of ludicrous extravagances (including still being built small coliseum, complete with lion). Also in attendance are his supermodel wife, ex-wife, their children, and a number of highly stressed out staff, as well as hired biographer Nick (David Mitchell).
Coogan is superb in the lead, and the screenplay (also by Coogan, with additional material from Sean Gray) gives him plenty of amusing lines that undercut the utter loathsomeness of his character, making us love to hate him, rather than hate to watch the film. However, said screenplay also overreaches, juggling one too many subplots and flashbacks. One section exploring the conditions suffered by workers in sweatshops involves a jarring shift in tone. However, I also accept that the sequence is necessary to drive home the many points made about capitalism gone mad (the way prices are driven down through competition, forcing sweatshop workers to work faster for less, and so on).
In the end, Greed is all a bit predictable and perhaps not as powerful as it could be, but it’s worth a watch for Coogan, and for highlighting the appalling exploitation that exists in much of the fashion and clothing industry.
UK Certificate: 15
US Certificate: R
Content Warnings: Very strong language, some bloody injuries.