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World Socialist Website - November 18, 2019

"...We learn through Nick’s conversation with Amanda—a personal assistant to McCreadie—of the terrible conditions that prevail in the sweatshops producing products for McCreadie’s brands. McCreadie’s “empire,” like every major corporation, is shown to rest on a global network of degrading and deadly exploitation. The statistics at the end of the film finish on the fact that just a few individuals own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population."

Directed by Michael Winterbottom, written by Winterbottom and Sean Gray

Greed, directed by the prolific Michael Winterbottom (Jude, In This World, The Road to Guantanamo, The Trip), is a satire based on British billionaire fashion retailer Sir Philip Green and a powerful social commentary on the criminality and human misery that underpins his fortune. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and was screened at the recent London Film Festival.

Green came to prominence in 2016 after funneling £1.5 billion [$US1.9 billion] out of British Home Stores, much of it to his wife in Monaco, avoiding UK tax. In doing so, he ran the company’s pension scheme from a surplus into a £571 million deficit and put the company into administration. This ended with 11,000 workers losing their jobs and 22,000 suffering massive hits to their pensions.

In Greed we join the main character, self-styled Richard “Greedy” McCreadie (Steve Coogan), in the middle of preparations for his own grand birthday party at his private villa on the Greek island of Mykonos. Attempting to repair his shattered reputation—having just been brought before a parliamentary committee after lucratively dismantling one of his companies, with the loss of thousands of jobs—McCreadie is trying to get as many famous faces as possible to his Rome-themed gala. A replica coliseum is being built, complete with live lion Clarence, and costumes are being prepared—royal purple for the guests, slave togas for the staff.

The satire is dialed-up and in-your-face in style, but how could it be otherwise when confronted with such a grotesque subject as Green and his ilk and their asset-stripping, sweatshop-supplied, tax-dodging empires? Contemporary levels of social inequality demand and outstrip comparisons with the Roman Empire.

Coogan uses his talent to bring the bullying, grasping McCreadie to life and helps the script articulate the character’s utter disregard for any other human being. Questioned by the parliamentary committee about the collapse of one of his businesses, after he and his family looted millions from the company accounts and thousands of jobs have been lost, McCreadie interrupts his interrogator. He suggests it was actually not such a big loss since “most of those jobs were part-time.”

At his Greek villa, McCreadie is incensed at the presence of a group of refugees camped on a nearby public beach: “Can’t they find refuge somewhere out of view?” He tries to have them removed by police. This interrupts a scene in which his thoroughly vapid daughter—being filmed for a reality television show on the rich and beautiful—hands out food to the refugees for the camera before snatching it back and insisting they look more pleased to receive it. ...
Read full review at World Socialist Website