Directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Starring Steve Coogan, David Mitchell, Isla Fisher, Dinita Gohil, Sarah Solemani, Shirley Henderson, Asa Butterfield, Sophie Cookson, Jamie Blackley, Pearl Mackie, Shanina Shaik, Asim Chaudhry, Enzo Cilenti and Ollie Locke.
Greed tells the story of self-made British billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan), whose retail empire is in crisis. For 30 years he has ruled the world of retail fashion but, after a damaging public inquiry, his image is tarnished. To save his reputation, he decides to bounce back with a highly-publicised and extravagant party celebrating his 60th birthday on the Greek island of Mykonos.
Greed is a deliciously savage film, lampooning the super-rich and revealing the seedy underbelly of retail and capitalism. It’s made abundantly clear here that those amassing a vast fortune in this area – and certainly in the case of Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan) – have blood on their hands, and have likely ruthlessly stepped on many bodies to make their way to the top.
Written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, Greed sometimes teeters on the edge of mockumentary with how (dangerously) close it comes to a reality of which most of us are aware – but would rather turn a blind eye. As McCreadie – the “unacceptable face of capitalism” – plans a lavish 60th birthday extravaganza on Mykonos, in order to distract attention from a damaging public inquiry, we see events unfold through the eyes of his biographer, Nick (David Mitchell). With Nick, it’s business as usual for Mitchell, who mainly just needs to be a bit awkward and generally look quite shocked from the sidelines as rather unpalatable things occur.
Greed certainly has bite and snark, and it revels in shocking with its pitch-black satire and close-to-the-bone humour. For example, a group of Syrian refugees living on the beach become an inconvenience for McCreadie, who simply wants them cleared out of the way – there’s no way they match with the optics of his epic birthday party. Hapless, awkward Britishness ensues (as with throughout most of the film) as McCreadie’s team attempt to sort the situation.
Steve Coogan is very well-suited to the brash, repulsive Sir Richard McCreadie, with his perma-tan and fluorescent teeth. He oozes belligerent arrogance to the point that ‘hubris’ may as well be picked out in lights on a sign that hovers permanently above his head – but he still keeps things pretty grounded in (rather sickening) truth. He behaves in precisely the kind of way you imagine a man who’s amassed vast wealth, and a team of minions rushing about to fulfil his every whim, would. And as someone who has clawed in all the success himself, since he was a teenager (as portrayed by Jamie Blackley), it’s all the more sweet for him. The film is brave with its thinly-veiled references to the well-known British retail magnate Coogan is clearly ridiculing.
There’s also a fistful of cameos from famous faces, happy to line up and blast the celebrity circus. One of the more pointed inclusions in the cast is Ollie Locke of Made in Chelsea reality-TV fame, as McCreadie’s daughter’s boyfriend Fabian, who is filming a constructed reality show with her – and is clearly gay. It won’t take a deep dive on the internet to work out the basis of that scenario, either.
Actors in larger roles include an engaging Isla Fisher as McCreadie’s ex-wife Samantha, who’s all toy boy and plastic surgery, akin to her ex, but with a hint of heart and an important modicum of awareness. Sarah Solemani channels icy bitch well as McCreadie’s party planner, who has to deal with the likes of the very casual Frank the lion tamer (an entertaining Asim Chaudhry). Shirley Henderson is also a hoot as McCreadie’s elderly Irish mother who enjoys being rude, opinionated and generally unpleasant. Clearly she’s way too young for this role, being the same age as her onscreen son, but that’s sort of beside the point when she’s clearly having a whale of a time.
The film’s moral compass is provided by Richard’s reticent assistant Amanda (Dinita Gohil) as the innocent, exposed to the horrors of fast fashion. Its human cost is made all too real to her – and us – when she visits McCreadie’s factory workforce in Sri Lanka, the country her parents emigrated from to the UK.
Greed is in no way subtle as it punctures the superficiality and highlights the glaring problems of capitalist industry in the west, and, in particular, fashion – it’s right there in the title. Its shocking climax seems rather fitting for the film, as it quite abruptly catches the audience out. There are a fair number of laughs along the way, but Greed’s message is certainly brought home by the final credits.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★