Greed – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writers: Michael Winterbottom (screenplay), Sean Gray (additional material by)
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Isla Fisher, Shanina Shaik
“The devil is in the retail” is one of the slogans that promote this epic about the high street. One of the devils is the minuscule wages paid to the workers in grim sewing factories in far way countries such as Sri Lanka – out of sight, out of mind. It enables Sir Richard McReadie (Steve Coogan) to sell clothes on the high street at such low prices that they are readily disposable by the purchaser . On the surface Sir Richard is happy coining it in and the customer is delighted to be able to buy such cheap clothes so as to be able to keep up with the ever-changing fashion scene. This merry-go-round enables Sir Richard’s wife to receive a billion pound plus dividend cheque.
But there is an unwholesome stench to the whole process. It enables Sir Richard to say to a parliamentary inquiry with a straight face “I have done nothing wrong”. No definition of “wrong” is proffered. In Sir Richard’s world if something is not illegal it is not wrong. That includes manipulation of a company’s balance sheet if it is for the benefit of Sir Richard and his grasping wife. Anybody who gets in their way is surplus to requirements. That is the main thrust of the film. When it concentrates on this central theme it makes for a good watch.
However, the story line gets diluted with a series of diversions which include a guy named Nick (David Mitchell) who is writing Sir Richard’s biography, Sir Richard’s remote relationships with his children and his early childhood which included a stint at some minor public school. It all deflects from Sir Richard’s overwhelming greed.
The plot centres on his mammoth birthday bash on a Greek island where he is having constructed in MDF or some such substance a Roman amphitheatre which will include a caged lion. The erection of this edifice includes more techniques learned from Richard’s unacceptable face of capitalism but the guys at the sharp end have an ability at least to counter some of his ruses. So the planning of the party rattles on with a tawdry list of guests, real or look-a- likes, turning up and there is a denouement which was not scheduled by the planners.
Coogan is terrific at the top of this pile of excrement as being brash, bullying and driven. He has an ability to make outrageous behaviour credible by his delivery and comic timing. In lesser actors it would just be crass. Somehow Coogan, while not making Sir Richard’s actions acceptable, it is at least understandable driven as it is by never ending greed.
The exploitation by the developed world of the emerging economies is a topic which needs far more airing than it gets. This film looks at a familiar example but it deviates from the main task. It is worth a visit as the topic is important but it could have been so much more.