Greed is Michael Winterbottom’s satire on the obscenely rich and, in particular, a billionaire, asset-stripping retail tycoon whose resemblance to any living person is purely intentional. (Hello, Sir Philip Green.) Plenty to work with, you would think. Low-hanging fruit and all that. But as the characters are so feebly sketched and the ‘jokes’ — ‘jokes’ in quotation marks; always a bad sign — are so heavy-handed it drags (and drags) rather than flies. Greed is good, greed works, Gordon Gekko famously said in Wall Street. But in this instance it isn’t. And doesn’t.
It stars Steve Coogan as Richard ‘Greed’ McCreadie who, when we first meet him, is planning a lavish 60th birthday celebration on the Greek island of Mykonos complete with togas and an amphitheatre (custom-built) and a lion (Clarence; someone remembers Daktari). The film adopts a Citizen Kane-ish structure as it flits through time showing us McCreadie at school, doing his first deals, opening his first fast-fashion stores (‘Don’t judge it just because it’s budget’ is actually quite a decent slogan), stashing his riches in Monaco, trashing a BHS equivalent, and so on. He is joined on the island by his first wife (Isla Fisher), his hot new girlfriend (Shanina Shaik), his new teeth (played by some new teeth; the most convincing performance of the day) and his three grown-up children who are so poorly developed I have no idea why they’re included. (Asa Butterfield doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing here, and neither do we.) Also knocking about is David Mitchell as McCreadie’s official biographer and Dinita Gohil as Amanda, who works for McCreadie in some capacity or other (never specified). It turns out she has a personal connection to the Sri Lankan sweatshops, which is later exploited so clumsily and ham-fistedly it truly makes your heart sink.