"The Life and Deliberate Murder of a Greedy “Capitalist Pig”"
What You Need To Know:
Despite some good performances and direction, GREED is bogged down by too many flashbacks. Also, the movie’s satirical story about a greedy, deceitful billionaire is too pat and simplistic. GREED (2020) has a strong Romantic, socialist, anti-capitalist worldview that contains abundant foul language and even justifies murder. Its attack on the use of overseas sweatshops to make cheap clothing is also simplistic. For example, companies use such sweatshops because of high taxes and stringent government regulations in their home countries. Also, if we closed down all sweatshops overseas, how would the employees support themselves?
GREED (2020) tells the story of a devious British fashion mogul, and how he cheats his way to success until he finally gets his ultimate comeuppance. The plot in GREED is bogged down by lots of flashbacks, especially in the satirical movie’s first half and has a very strong, abhorrent Romantic, socialist, anti-capitalist worldview that contains abundant foul language and even justifies murder.
The movie stars comic actor Steve Coogan, who was made famous in America as the Roman centurion from the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM movies. Coogan plays Sir Richard McCreadie, aka “Greedy McCreadie,” a who’s planning a big party on a beautiful Greek island to celebrate his 60th birthday. Although he was born into some wealth, Richard has been focused on earning more money and making a name for himself since the time he was a teenager. A series of flashbacks shows, in between scenes of planning for the party, reveals that Sir Richard’s success didn’t always come honestly. He is caught and punished for gambling while in his fancy British high school, although the other boys with whom he was playing cards claim that playing with Richard was more of a robbery than a fair game. Richard also did card tricks and games, always easily fooling or even swindling his victims. He soon begins buying and selling clothes by haggling large shipments of clothes for a low price and opening up his own discount retail store. This became a lifetime business for him, going through many different stores and always finding new ways to make more money.
One way he learned early on to increase his profits is to outsource his clothing manufacturing overseas to places like the island nation of Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon), off the Eastern coast of India. In Sri Lanka, sweatshop laborers work for minimal pay. Also, Richard didn’t have to worry about insurance or employee benefits and could negotiate to pay less and less per product.
The movie shows how Sir Richard gets his big break by buying a name fashion company, but without using any of his own money. Instead, the struggling company loans him all the money (with the company’s board of directors getting large kickbacks). Then, after making only one or two minimal payments, Sir Richard defaults on the loan, but the bank writes it off! Meanwhile, Sir Richard sticks all the loan money in banks overseas, like the Cayman Islands, where there’s no income tax.
Eventually, after three decades of success, Sir Richard’s shady business tactics come under scrutiny by the British government. Several flashbacks show him being grilled by government officials in a recent public hearing.
Cut back to the planning for the 60th birthday party, which Sir Richard hopes will restore his reputation after all the bad press surrounding the government hearing. Sir Richard has spared no expense for his Roman-themed party. He’s even having his own little “Gladiator” stadium built for the event, complete with a lion for the evening’s big entertainment. His ex-wife, Samantha, has come for the party, bringing her new beau, as have their two children. Their daughter, Lily, has a camera crew following her and her boyfriend, because they’re starring in a scripted “Reality TV” show. Their son, Finn, seems to be the odd one out of the family. His parents clearly favor Lily and make it obvious that Finn’s an embarrassment to them. Finn talks Nick, a writer and journalist hired by Sir Richard to write his official biography. Some of the flashbacks show Nick following the family around doing interviews and taking videos. As such, he’s been privy to some of Sir Richard’s dark business secrets. Nick has also traveled to all the overseas sweatshops Sir Richard owns, getting the employees to wish Richard a happy birthday on camera.
It turns out that Amanda, the young women who works for the company helping Sir Richard throw his lavish party, is actually from Sri Lanka. Amanda later reveals to Sir Richard’s biographer her mother once worked for one of Sir Richard’s sweatshops, but couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced demand that was required because he was always asking for more product, more quickly from the local company. Her mother had to get a different job at a rundown facility, where the building caught on fire, and her mother suffocated and died from the smoke, along with hundreds of other workers.
Despite this tragic personal history, Amanda shows no signs of being upset or angry with Sir Richard at all. [Possible Spoilers follow] However, the time for the party arrives, and Sir Richard wants all the servants and people working at his party to wear Roman slave costumes, including Amanda. Suddenly, Amanda seethes with animosity toward Sir Richard. She sees her opportunity to make Sir Richard pay for what he’s done when Sir Richard takes a moment alone to admire the lion in its cage at the Roman coliseum exhibit.
GREED (2020) (not to be confused with the silent movie classic directed by Erich von Stroheim) has a relentless satirical tone, even though it could also be seen as a drama. Still, because of that satirical tone, the movie ultimately comes across as a biting comedy filled with irony and wit, not to mention leftist rage. This combination creates enough entertainment to hold the viewer’s interest. It’s also helped by very good performances. However, the movie is bogged down by too many flashbacks, especially in the movie’s first half, as the actors reveal the backstory to “Greedy McCreadie” and his rise in the world of high fashion. Also, the satire sometimes stretches credulity, probably because the story about the greedy, mean “capitalist pig” who gets his comeuppance is a little too pat and simplistic, lacking nuance.
This final problem with the movie is a big one, and it also reflects the movie’s simple-minded Romantic, socialist, anti-capitalist, leftist worldview. Though Sir Richard, the movie’s central target, is clearly a hard worker and a demanding boss, he comes across as mean and thoroughly dishonest. Not only is he born rich, he finds success in his chosen field of high fashion by cheating, defrauding, exploiting, and abusing the system and other people. In addition, throughout the movie, Sir Richard expresses his disdain for some Syrian refugees living on the beach near his party. He orders people to get rid of them, although his daughter tries to ameliorate the situation (her actions comically don’t succeed). Finally, the movie seems to side with an argument that Amanda seems to make at the end. Amanda tells Nick that, because Sir Richard has lied and cheated to achieve success, which results in the death of hundreds of people in the tragic building fire in Sri Lanka, then doing something that results in Richard’s death, and then lying about it, is morally equivalent to the bad things he’s done all his life. Of course, such moral relativism is itself immoral.
Some of the movie’s biggest anti-capitalist elements are reserved for the fashion industry’s reliance on overseas sweatshops to provide consumers in Western industrial countries with cheap clothes and lower prices for more expensive clothes. For example, Nike, the controversial, famous shoe company, has been accused of relying on such sweatshops. MOVIEGUIDE® does not, of course, endorse sweatshops anywhere, including domestic sweatshops. Nor do we endorse poor working conditions that endanger human lives or the use and exploitation of really cheap labor. However, the issue of sweatshops overseas is not so clear-cut as the filmmakers behind GREED want you to believe. For example, one of the reasons many big American and British clothing, textile manufacturers have had to rely on cheap labor from overseas sweatshops is because of high taxes and stringent government regulations in the United States and Great Britain, including ill-considered minimum wage laws. Of course, most of those high taxes are because of the unbiblical, impractical and immoral social welfare state that leftists have created in America and Britain since the 1930s. In addition, by getting the government involved in things like healthcare and college education, leftists have caused healthcare costs and college tuition to skyrocket. This system, plus the higher taxes, means that the average American and British citizen can no longer afford to pay higher prices for clothes, or higher prices for much of anything else for that matter. Finally, although the sweatshop wages and working conditions in some overseas countries could be and probably should be improved, the fact remains that the use of many of these sweatshops has actually improved the living conditions of many poor people overseas. If we closed down all tomorrow, where would the employees find work? How would they feed themselves? How would they pay their rent? The filmmakers behind GREED never even ask such questions, even in the movie’s production notes where they angrily denounce free-market capitalism and the use of overseas sweatshops. At least in a Christian, capitalist republic where the social welfare state is drastically limited, voters can slowly improve things by making gradual reforms, from the bottom up. Such reform is usually impossible in a socialist, totalitarian state such as the kind that big government socialists. (Note: During the end credits, the movie notes on a visual crawl that overseas sweatshops mostly employ women and children, but it also admits that sweatshop workers in Sri Lanka are among the highest paid.)
Ultimately, therefore, GREED’s leftist worldview is not only morally and politically abhorrent, it’s also terribly simplistic and shallow on both an intellectual and a socio-economic policy level. Finally, as often happens with leftist movies like GREED (2020), the script has a nearly constant stream of strong obscene language.