On the run-up to his 60th birthday, Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan) is battling to keep his extravagant, Roman-themed party on the rails while attempting to navigate a scandal involving his string of fast-fashion outlets as a writer (David Mitchell) attempts to interview the people who know him best.
There's a belief that the world we live has now become so absurd and bizarre, so caked in hypocrisy and shamelessness, that satire is having a hard time keeping pace. Watching 'Greed', you get the sense that there's something truly wrong with how we live if this comes across as relatively safe. In fact, 'Greed' feels less like some biting satire and more of an honest account of the fast-fashion industry that just happens to have a few funny moments sewn into it here and there.
Steve Coogan has built his career on playing compelling tossers who you can't help but hate, and all of his skills are on show in animating a thinly-veiled pastiche of Sir Phillip Green. He's all Monaco tan and capped teeth, parading around his tacky party with his trophy girlfriend while berating pudgy lackeys, but beneath it all lies the black void heart of capitalism. The movie pings between multiple timelines, charting his rise to the top - beginning in Thatcher-era England to corner fast-fashion by buying direct from third-world manufacturers and reselling them on the high streets of London - before it tries to scalp the celebrity endorsement culture as well.
While the supporting cast of David Mitchell, Isla Fisher, Asa Butterfield and Dinita Gohil all give committed performances, the thread of the story (no pun intended) becomes tangled as Michael Winterbottom tries to take on celebrity culture, fast-fashion, the refugee crisis and conspicuous wealth. The result is that nothing ultimately fits, and you're left with something misshapen and uneven in the final execution. Compared to something like 'Succession', which focuses on similar themes, 'Greed' comes up far short for something with this much potential.
It's not all bad, however, As mentioned, Coogan does much of the heavy lifting in the comedy and it's to his credit that he's able to keep the audience watching him, no matter how blithely terrible he is or how annoying his misquoting of 'Gladiator' is. There isn't one redeemable part about it, and that Coogan so fully embraces that aspect is to his credit. Few actors wouldn't have the courage to do so, but Coogan commits fully and earnestly to the shitness of his role. Yet, for all that, it's squandered when it tries to take swipes at celebrity parties, reality TV, and never lands a clean punch on any of them.
What sets 'Greed' back is that Michael Winterbottom's focus was too wide for something this awful. No doubt that there is a clear intersection between fashion and celebrity, and that one is as guilty as the other, but that's about the size of it in this movie. Nothing seems to latch on as it should, and the ending is somewhat botched by a glaringly obvious factor. The jokes come thick and fast, sure, but all of it feels like it's hurriedly sewn together.
Ultimately, 'Greed' tries to spread the fabric (again, no pun intended) over too wide an area leaves too much exposed to the elements, and not in a good way.