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Film Review: Greed

25 February 20 words: Chris King

This satire about capitalist greed contains a stunning cast, but may have bitten off more than it could chew... 

Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Asa Butterfield, Isla Fisher
Running Time: 104 minutes

Attempting to tell too many tales, Greed falls short of its own high ambitions and never truly manages to hit the heights it was striving for, despite compelling performances from Steve Coogan and Dinita Gohil. 

Themes of this story include capitalism, immigration, dysfunctional families, drug addictions, working conditions in Sri Lanka, personal loss, animal abuse, reality TV shows and the ability of a biographer to be objective to name a few. It is a whistle stop tour of modern society set to the backdrop of a Roman-themed party, with Syrian refugees-come-waiters dressed as slaves, a lion and even a fake amphitheatre. Greed tries to take in the many sins and evils humanity commits and never really settles on any for long enough to make them poignant.

Throughout the film we are treated to flashbacks showing Sir Richard McCreadie’s (Coogan) rise to power and spats with a parliamentary body investigating his business dealings. Some are told to Nick (David Mitchell) as he attempts to craft McCreadie’s biography, presumably to give the billionaire fashion tycoon some good press and reveal the ‘true’ story, and others appear to simply provide exposition when an event in McCreadie’s life is discussed. 

Each plot point is handled with little grace and simply tells you the moral lesson you should take, rather letting you see both sides. Every scene wants to tell you what not to do and tries to make you feel awkward and introspective, which doesn’t do the subject matters they are trying to tackle justice. It’s like watching a sweary lecture you didn’t ask for and weren’t entirely expecting.

Coogan is delightfully despicable as the irrevocably selfish and money-obsessed McCreadie

This all means that plot threads don’t intertwine to paint a complete picture, instead running parallel and occasionally bumping into each other when the characters become relevant or haven’t been on screen for a certain amount of time. By the end of the film you could be forgiven for forgetting why Nick is even there, as he and Richard barely get any screen time together and he is rarely even seen writing his biography of the infamous ‘Greedy’ McCready.

Despite this, Greed does still manage to have the odd moment of genuine sorrow as it attempts to hold up a mirror to the world in which we live. Coogan is delightfully despicable as the irrevocably selfish and money-obsessed McCreadie, while Gohill gives us one of the only genuine human characters on screen in Amanda. She is one of McCreadie’s party staff, an awkward position for her given that her mother suffered in Sri Lanka due to McCreadie’s harsh budget cuts. This provides reason to actually hate McCreadie aside from the obvious and provides a human story about this frankly pantomime villain.  

The final minutes are surprisingly impactful, but could have been even more hard-hitting had the build-up warranted such a commendable payoff. Instead Greed rather unironically, despite its name, bit off more than it could chew. Had it decided on one or two main themes - for example, McCreadie’s fashion empire coming at the expense of poorly paid workers and Syrian refugees - then it could have worked. 

Nevertheless, Greed does contain an important message about the society created by fast fashion and a seemingly contagious lack of care about the rest of humanity. It shines a light on areas many of us choose to ignore. 

Sure, it isn’t going to be a blockbuster, but it warrants some credit for making us reflect on the world we have chosen to create - even if we don’t want to.

Did you know? This is David Mitchell’s first big role in a film since Magicians (2007) where he starred along Peep Show co-star Robert Webb, and is the only film he has produced involving a guillotine.

Greed is screening at Broadway Cinema until Monday 2 March

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