After three seasons of The Trip and three films, Michael Winterbottom reunites once again with Steve Coogan. Following earlier movies 24 Hour Party People (in which Coogan played Factory Records founder Tony Wilson) and The Look of Love (Soho smut king Paul Raymond), now it’s the turn of a very different entrepreneur in Greed. Inspired by Topshop owner Sir Philip Green, Coogan’s perma-tanned Sir Richard McCreadie is the self-styled king of the high street.
As we swiftly learn, McCreadie has made his millions by buying and selling high-street fashion chains, maximising profits by driving hard bargains for cheap labour in the Third World. Now he’s about to celebrate his 60th birthday with an expensive party on the Greek Island of Mykonos. With a Gladiator theme, that means togas, a real lion and a Roman amphitheatre, which is currently being built by some inefficient workers.
Joining him to celebrate will be his ex-wife (Isla Fisher) and her latest toy-boy, his two grown-up children (Asa Butterfield, Sophie Cookson) and a host of celebrities. Except that with bad PR increasingly spinning around him, those famous faces are dropping like flies. One of the more amusing asides has McCreadie rounding up some lookalikes to fool partygoers into thinking the real celebs are attending.
Observing all of this horrifyingly gauche behaviour is a journalist (David Mitchell) who is penning McCreadie’s biography and has already travelled to the factories where McCreadie’s clothes are made to record birthday greetings from his vastly underpaid workers. Styled in part like a documentary, the film is undoubtedly funny, Coogan spot-on as this objectionable ogre who clearly thinks he’s Russell Crowe’s Maximus.
But as is often the case with Winterbottom’s films, it feels like a first draft. More care in the scripting is needed. Plus a sequence involving the lion hinges on some rather bad CGI. Still, Winterbottom’s anger at the billionaire elite, and the exploitation of the workers, is palpable. The film ends with facts and figures about the disparity between the 1% and those earning a couple of dollars a day for their labour. Winterbottom and Coogan more than make their point.
Greed opens on 21 February. For more details, visit here.