Michael Douglas once said “Greed is good” and won an Oscar® as Best Actor in director Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street (1987). Apparently, Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom took that theory to heart and decided to run with the idea and go over the top, waaaaaay over the top, in their version of avarice in Greed, a new comedy/ drama/satire from Sony Pictures Classics.
The film has caused great controversy in England as it is seen as a not-so- veiled attack on real-life retailer Sir Philip Green, a hugely successful businessman and billionaire boss of a retail empire. Green’s factories allegedly were set up in third world countries where workers can be paid a pittance. Nothing new here, as this has been going on for eons, with moguls setting up their factories in China or other lowly-paid sweat-shop havens to save money and reap the benefits themselves. Actor Coogan, who plays Sir Richard McCreadie, said in an interview with the BBC that “He’s (Green) a charismatic figure, it was a good basis on which to develop this movie idea.”
First we have to see how McCreadie evolved into his current billionaire status. He’s played as a young hustler by the very handsome Jamie Blackley who bullies his way through various retail shenanigans to get what he wants and cons almost everybody he meets by using his charm and arrogance. The 28 year-old Blackley is an up and comer and should do well in films. He’s a strapping six feet tall with swarthy looks.
The film’s raison d’etre is to show just how vile a character McCreadie really is, and so we have biographer Nick (actor David Mitchell) follow him about as preparations are being made for a spectacular 60th birthday bash on a Greek island. Various characters pop in and out of the movie, such as British actress Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter) who plays a somewhat doddering old lady version of McCreadie’s mother, even though she and Coogan are the same age at 54! Some years ago I interviewed the Scottish Ms. Henderson and found her to be a sweet woman with a dour sense of humor. Young Asa Butterfield, at age 22, is somewhat wasted as McCreadie’s son Finn, who has only one big scene at the end.
The birthday party shows all the excesses a billionaire will go through, flying in expensive pop stars, building a Roman Forum for scenes with a real lion who proves pivotal in the story, and hiring nubile young girls to provide enough pulchritude to stock a dairy farm.
Winterbottom has directed the film as a part comedy, part biography, part “greed is good and awful” example, and to show how McCreadie gets his just rewards. Cinematography by Giles Nuttgens is tops and makes the Greek island location look even more beautiful than it could possibly be in real life.
(Released by Sony Pictures Classics and rated “R” for pervasive language and brief drug use.)