Steve Coogan stars as wealthy fashion tycoon in film that never finds its voice

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The super-wealthy are the target of the painfully obvious and at times embarrassingly literal "Greed," which manages to rile up about all the passion of an "eat the rich" bumper sticker.  

Steve Coogan stars as fashion magnate Sir Richard McCreadie, dubbed "Greedy McCreadie" by the world at large.  

He's a shrewd businessman and corner cutter — described as both "the Mozart of retail," and "the Da Vinci of dealmaking" — who's gotten rich off of shady business practices and built an empire on the backs of the working class. In that regard, he's a stand-in for any number of real-life tycoons. 

McCreadie is getting ready to celebrate his 60th birthday with a lavish, over-the-top party styled after his favorite film, "Gladiator." So yes, there's a Roman theme so overt that mentioning it does not excuse it, and you can see where things are headed the moment a live lion is introduced into the mix. 

"Greed" seems unsure of whether it's meant to be a comedy, a parody or a satire, and winds up whiffing on all three accounts.

Coogan, with his blinding white veneers, seems ready to go to work and make his character grossly loathsome, but co-writer and director Michael Winterbottom — Coogan's partner on the "Trip" series of films, along with Rob Brydon — is caught between making a message movie and a flippant examination of tax avoidance and asset stripping, a la "The Laundromat."

The subject matter is certainly timely, as wage inequality is one of the defining issues of our era. "Greed" is sinking its teeth into the class war, but barely has enough bite to leave a mark.

'Greed'

GRADE: C-

Rated R: for pervasive language and brief drug use

Running time: 104 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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