LFF 2019: Greed – Review

Release date – 21st February 2020, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 44 minutes, Director – Michael Winterbottom

A British retail tycoon (Steve Coogan) takes over almost all of a Greek resort to host an extended party for his 60th birthday.

Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie is a name devised specifically for a villain. It also happens to be the name of Steve Coogan’s British retail tycoon in Michael Winterbottom’s latest satirical feature. Throughout the film Coogan’s fake-ghost-white toothed multi-millionaire is seen to be taking over almost the entirety of a Greek holiday resort for a lavish 60th birthday party. Winterbottom’s screenplay, with additional material from Sean Gray, is very much taking aim at the likes of Sir Phillip Green. McCreadie is followed by the astounded and perplexed writer of his biography (David Mitchell) throughout the film. Mitchell’s character goes round the individual friends and family of McCready, travelling across the world to the sweatshops that supply the cheap clothing for his fashion brand and shops, many of which have failed over his many decades in business.

It’s made clear that McCreadie is very much your standard unaspirational satirical business owner. Only in it to make more money for himself, not thinking about the welfare of other people – at one point during footage from a past court trial he’s told that one failed brand led to “the loss of 11,000 jobs”, to which he bluntly shrugs off with “most of those jobs were part time”. It’s the distinct lack of care, and very much the frivolous spending of such a liquid character that brings about a number of the laughs in the film. It almost seems that everything is played for laughs, which helps with the sense of ridicule that it feels the film is trying to get across – Coogan going as far to almost be doing his best Terry Tibbs impression; the rest of the cast, including the likes of Isla Fisher as Richard’s ‘sort of’/ ‘for show’ wife and Asa Butterfield as the estranged son, understanding the stereotypes that make up their characters and put it into their performances.

However, despite the constant streak of ridicule some of the biggest laughs come from the plainly stupid and absurd lines of dialogue – of which there are a fair many. Often distracting from the gags that do go a bit too close, or sometimes just over, the line; one specific running gag being McCreadie’s constant demands to have a large group of refugees removed from the beach just so he can build a colosseum to hold an event in on his birthday, Tim Key frustrated in charge of making the large structure despite the lack of effort from anyone else. Alongside jokes around sweatshops and various other similar areas there are a number of near the mark jokes, some of which are slightly successful, while others create a feeling close to a cringe that stops the flow of the film and at times almost brings it to a dead halt.

The only other thing that comes close to such a feeling is when Winterbottom attempts to bring in a much more dramatic tone – almost the polar opposite to the tone of the comedy beforehand – in the third act. With less frequent comedy and the feeling of a rather forced tone, as the main party begins and things are wrapped up; despite there not being much plot to actually wrap up, the film does begin to drag, feeling as if it could be cut down close to 90 minutes than the 104 minute run-time that it actually holds. However, what comes beforehand is a fairly funny satire that, while not having a range of ideas, just about manages to keep its head above water, even if there are some lacking patches along the way.

Much like the investments of the main character the gags in Greed are very hit or miss, some possibly stepping a bit too far over the line. While the drama doesn’t quite work what does is when the film lets go and simply goes for the stupid lines of dialogue that really create the actual laughs.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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