If you like your comedy like you like your coffee - acid black - have I got a new film for you.
Steve Coogan is back in "Greed," playing a fictitious British billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie, a man whose fashion empire is built upon exploitation, non-payment, dodgy deals, tax avoidance, and blatant cronyism.
For 30 years McCreadie has ruled the world of retail fashion with one bad deal after another, but now a damaging public inquiry has deeply tarnished his image and some of the truth has finally got out.
To save his faltering reputation, he decides to rebrand himself and his business with a highly publicized party celebrating his 60th birthday on the gorgeous Greek island of Mykonos.
The Greek setting is intentional. "Greed" is all about hubris, the ancient Greek word that means excessive pride and self-confidence. The Greeks believed that hubris always came before the fall and let's face it, there's a lot of hubris about these days.
There's also an increasing amount of wealth inequality about and wealth inequality is "Greed's" theme. Did you know, for example, that the 26 richest people in the world now own as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion?
"Greed" certainly knows this, lambasting high fliers like McCreadie and others who live off the billions they make off the backs of exploited workers in third world countries.
Everyone knows that Coogan, 54, is a gifted comedian but did you know that he's actually Irish too? Famous for playing Alan Partridge and for Philomena (with Judi Dench) Coogan had an Irish mother and spent his childhood summers in County Mayo where he still returns to this day.
Coogan recently went massively viral for singing the Irish rebel song Come Out You Black And Tans on the Alan Partridge show. It's not just a rebel song, in a real sense it is the rebel song.
“It was kinda like a little in-joke, a private bet,” he told the press. “I wonder could we get, just for the mischief, an Irish rebel song on primetime BBC One and we managed to do that. Hahahaha. In fact, we got two Irish rebel songs in!” The second rebel song that Coogan performed was The Men Behind The Wire, a song famously banned by RTE for its strongly pro-IRA connotations.
Coogan doesn't mind courting controversy and he's not afraid of accusations of hypocrisy for playing the part of a man who doesn't give any thought to the morality of how he came by his riches. Having lived a pretty lavish life he says he has learned.
“People might do that, might accuse me of hypocrisy and yeah, I've certainly had an indulgent lifestyle,” he told the press. “But, you know, people aren't one thing and people change, and people can do things that they think “I behaved like this, but it wasn't good, and now...” The same way people are allowed to change their minds about things. You know, we're not born and keep the same views throughout our lives.”
Bono and U2 come in for a particular pasting during the film, for tax avoidance in Ireland as they jet around the world giving aid to the poor. “Look at Bono,” says McCreadie in the film. “He claims U2 are based in Holland for tax purposes. Doesn't stop him going around the world in your grandmother's sunglasses going on about eroding poverty or whatever. “You'd be stupid not to try and cut your tax bill,” he told the Mail. I agree with Bono.”
"Greed" lets us see how the super-rich live and just how much the whole game of life is rigged in their favor. Moving to Monaco, where they pay no taxes, McCreadie and his wife are just millionaires, which in that town of billionaires means they're nobodies.
It's when McCreedie starts to make better deals and live in better homes that he comes to the attention of the better banks because money makes money and people will start to give you more of it if they think you will make more of it, "Greed" reminds us.
McCreadie's underlings take a different view, however. “He wasn't a businessman, he was a parasite,” says one former fashion buyer who was once employed by him. She calls his Greedy McCreadie and says he was a bully and a fake businessman.
So "Greed" walks a thin line between satire and social commentary but it always makes sure to bring the big laughs. “When you’re playing someone who ostensibly seems quite odious you have to mitigate that because no one wants to watch a film about somebody who’s just horrible,” Coogan told the press.
“So what was good about the script - and not just the script, because we were allowed use of a certain amount of improvisation, which Michael likes to encourage - is that, you make the character funny, then that sugars the pill somewhat. So the audience is entertained by him while being repelled by him at the same time.”
The first tip-off that McCreadie is surrounded by insincere yes men is his absurd glow in the dark white teeth and fake tan. His skin is orange throughout most of the film and his sparkling choppers dazzle us, there isn't anyone to tell him he looks like a prat because they're all on his payroll.
As McCreadie, his live-in lover and his ex-wife all prepare for the big 60th bash, his daughter is following the Kardashian route and filming a reality show about her privileged life in the background. But her big romance scene is interrupted by the arrival of some real-life Syrian refugees who are living on the beach (75,000 refugees are currently in Greece).
So the stage is literally set for the clash between the haves and have nots and whilst "Greed" can be very broad in its satire, it can also be very precise about the result of all the exploitation it took to build McCreadie's tottering empire.
This is a film with a literal bite. It could hardly be more relevant to the world we are forced to live in.