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"GREED"
(2020) (Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: As preparations are made for a fashion tycoon's lavish 60th birthday party, flashbacks show how he made his fortune on the backs and misfortunes of others.
PLOT:

Sir Richard McCreadie (STEVE COOGAN) is a British fashion tycoon who made his fortune buying rival companies and driving them into the ground, but not before extracting plenty of money for himself, his now ex-wife, Samantha (ISLA FISHER), or his latest lover, Naomi (SHANINA SHAIK).

They and many others -- including his mother, Margaret (SHIRLEY HENDERSON), reality TV star daughter Lily (SOPHIE COOKSON) and bitter son Finn (ASA BUTTERFIELD) -- have assembled on the Greek isle of Mykonos for his lavish 60th birthday party. Others, such as assistants Melanie (SARAH SOLEMANI) and Amanda (DINITA GOHIL) try to handle the various logistics ranging from hiring musical acts to inviting celebrity guests and even building an amphitheater that will feature an actual live lion for a faux gladiator game.

At the same time, McCreadie's biographer, Nick (DAVID MITCHELL), watches the various attempts by many people trying to appease the tycoon's every wish, no matter how elaborate, while also attempting to remove displaced immigrants who are camped out on a nearby beach.

And as all of that occurs, we see flashbacks to McCreadie's formative years at a boarding school, his ruthless raiding of fashion materials and even rival companies, and him facing a harsh hearing inquiring about his ruthless tactics.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10

While no one film gets to have a lock on the most memorable quote of the decade during which it was released, certain flicks definitely make the top five list. For instance, the 1970s brought us "You're gonna need a bigger boat" and without saying anything else, one is instantly transported back to shell-shocked chummer Roy Scheider delivering that line to Robert Shaw in "Jaws." Likewise, if one says, "Greed is good," it's not difficult to picture Michael Douglas playing the slick corporate raider Gordon Gekko in 1987's "Wall Street."

Interestingly enough, you could easily swap the lines in the films and they work just as well. One can imagine Larry Vaughn's Amity mayor telling his cohorts that greed is indeed good while keeping the beaches open to lure in tourists and keep their money flowing into the town. At the same time, one can see Douglas' Gekko atop his mega-yacht smugly telling an investor rival that the latter's boat is, well, undersized.

Yes, money makes the world go around but is also the root of many evils and the downfall of many a person after it, as well as those they step on to get their hands on it. That's part of the point of Michael Winterbottom's appropriately titled "Greed" where Steve Coogan plays Sir Richard McCreadie, a man who made his fortune buying up fashion-related companies and driving them into the ground, but not before making a penny or a few billion pounds in the process.

With it being his 60th birthday, he wants a lavish, ego-boosting party on the Greek island of Mykonos where he's having an amphitheater built (to house faux gladiator games, albeit with one very real if very chill lion), celebrities are invited if they haven't already been hired to play for the elaborate gig, and his staff (and a handful of displaced immigrants he's "won" in a card game of sorts) will wear ancient Roman attire.

I'm guessing that latter element is part of the joke of this intended take-down of accumulating and flaunting wealth trumping historical accuracy...or anything else for that matter regardless of the financial or personal costs involving others. It's not a particularly novel idea, but there's plenty of room for such straight-up comedies (such as "Trading Places") and informative satires (like "The Big Short") and there's certainly potential aplenty for Winterbottom to mine in the script that he's written.

Alas, the result isn't as funny, maddening or even just as revealing as it seems to think it is. That's not to say that such qualities are missing -- it's just that they're not in enough copious abundance to really make this offering take off. It certainly doesn't help that there's a sprawling cast with various subplot storylines.

Some of those feel shoehorned in for socio-political commentary that's too obvious (ranging from the aforementioned immigrants on the nearby public beach that McCreadie believes will sully the look of his party to women who work in low-paying sweatshops sewing together his merchandise). Others are attempted humorous take-downs of goofy TV programming along the lines of "The Bachelor" and other such reality shows (Sophie Cookson plays the tycoon's adult daughter who's starring in one of them with her lover).

There's also Isla Fisher playing the protagonist's ex-wife who designed her own mega-yacht from the billion-plus pound "dividend" he earned for her; Asa Butterfield as his son who's a little too into "Oedipus Rex" and the whole son offing the father bit; David Mitchell playing McCreadie's biographer who's there to observe the festivities as part of his upcoming book; Dinita Gohil as one of the assistants with a maternal connection to the aforementioned sweatshops; Shirley Henderson as his immigrant mother; Shanina Shaik as his model lover and others playing the lion tamer, the amphitheater project manager and so on and so on.

All of that coupled with Winterbottom jumping all around through time to show the early, formative days of the protagonist at his boarding school; later beginning his accumulation of fashion and then stores; and appearing before a hearing that seems designed to -- it appears, at least in part -- simply point out how horrible of a human being he is in regard to his quest to make money, means the film can't help but feel scattershot and unwieldy. That said, Coogan is completely believable as the ruthless rich guy who, not that surprisingly, ultimately gets his comeuppance as related to stomping on the little guy -- and woman -- as he climbed the wealth ladder.

The point of all of this, of course, is that greed isn't good as it involves all sorts of collateral damage. It's just too bad that no single line of dialogue -- let alone the overall film -- will stand the test of time as something memorable or great. As such, "Greed" rates as a near-miss and scores a 4.5 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed March 3, 2020 / Posted March 6, 2020


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