Greed (2020; Michael Winterbottom)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opening Friday, March 6, at the Tower Theatre in Sacramento, as well as the Regal Natomas and Regal UA Laguna Village.
The Adam McKay-ification of the global cinema-scape continues apace with this toothless, pseudo-intellectual satire. Director Michael Winterbottom once again works with Steve Coogan (previous collaborations include 24 Hour Party People and The Trip films), who stars here as fictional billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie. So far, so good, but Greed borrows all the bad ideas from McKay’s sadly influential The Big Short.
“Digging Its Own Grave”
Ultimately, Greed offers little more than a layup line of easy observations about the toxicity of wealth. The film starts digging its own grave from the opening moments, as E.M. Forster gets contrasted with Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You.” Remember these last, sweet moments of relative subtlety when the Syrian refugees show up.
As the film opens, McCreadie and his team of sub-Ianucci schemers are in the final phases of planning his impossibly opulent birthday party on the island of Mykonos. McCreadie envisions a celebrity-stocked Roman circus, with himself cast as emperor. Naturally, a nitwit biographer tags along to make lame jokes and investigate McCreadie’s sordid backstory.
“Solemnly Pretentious Aspirations”
A ruthless trader, McCreadie made his fortune by low-balling Sri Lankan sweatshops. He emerged at the time of Reagan and Thatcher, emulating their ruthlessly capitalist values. After repeatedly failing upward, he granted himself a $1.2 billion holiday bonus. McCreadie then ditched his well-compensated ex-wife (Isla Fisher, playing mostly the same character as in The Beach Bum) for a trophy girlfriend half her age.
Coogan gets a few laughs, even if his quips feel at odds with the film’s more solemnly pretentious aspirations. The film makes easy jokes at James Blunt’s expense one moment, then sermonizes about tax shelters the next. If you remain unconvinced about the venality of billionaire robber barons, this film might push you off the fence. Otherwise, Greed is pointless save for the scene where Fisher admonishes son Asa Butterfield for “growing pubic hair on your face.”