He is the King of the High Street, the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of retail, the Da Vinci of deal-making, the Monet of money: He is Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie.
A shrewd businessman, McCreadie managed to become one of the youngest billionaires in the world by driving hard bargains, hiring cheap labor and finding clever ways to avoid paying taxes on his wealth. He gambles with success, insisting with every wager that “you win some, you lose some.”
Now, as he approaches his 60th birthday, Sir Richard wants to chronicle and celebrate all his achievements. So he hires a biographer to write his story as he plans a colossal party in his own honor—emphasis on colossal since he commissions a Colosseum-style amphitheater to provide entertainment for his guests.
But after one of the companies in McCreadie’s empire goes bankrupt, he finds himself in the hot seat as the British Parliament opens an investigation into his business dealings. Richard insists he’s done nothing wrong, but the 11 million people who lost their jobs while the McCreadie family took home 1.2 billion pounds beg to differ.
It’s very clear that the overarching theme of Greed is that greed is bad. McCreadie goes to extremes to gain his wealth; and the further he goes with his antics, the further he has to keep going to maintain his lifestyle. In the end, it winds up being his downfall.
Although her morals are often flawed, Richard’s ex-wife, Samantha, cares about her family very much. She protects her children from physical harm when they are younger, reaches out to her son when she thinks he is depressed and helps her daughter stay grounded as she pursues a career in acting.
Richard’s mother, much like Samantha, is also very protective of her family. She berates a school headmaster after he uses corporal punishment on Richard as a teenager, helps her granddaughter navigate a messy relationship and ensures that Richard’s biographer is painting him in a positive (if not altogether accurate) light.
When the children of Syrian refugees steal, a woman working for McCreadie refuses to call the police, sympathizing with their desperate situation. Instead she talks to their uncle, and he is able to convince them to return the stolen items. He gently chastises them for their actions but forgives them for the mistake. Richard’s girlfriend and his daughter also show sympathy to the refugees.
Someone mentions a priest.
Flashbacks show Richard and Samantha making out several times. In the present, they are both involved with much younger people but are still affectionate and flirty with one another. At one point, Richard kisses Samantha, but she pushes him off and tells him not to follow her.
A woman kisses a man and straddles him on a bed while they make sexual comments towards one another. Richard dances sexually with his girlfriend after stopping his son from groping her. Two men wrestle and playfully in the ocean and then kiss. Later, one of the men admits he is gay to his girlfriend.
Couples kiss and are physically affectionate. We see a few women in revealing swimsuits, and one woman does yoga in her swimsuit. There are a few shirtless men in swimming trunks. Women wear cleavage-baring and formfitting outfits. A woman has to keep pulling her skirt down when the wind blows it up. We partially see the undergarments of men and women wearing togas. Fully clothed women pour buckets of water on themselves to bathe. People exchange kisses in greeting.
Sexually suggestive comments pervade conversations throughout the movie. Some of these comments involve animals, and others graphically describe male and female anatomy. Someone makes an inappropriate remark about a priest and a choir boy. Richard asks his assistant not to charge him with sexual harassment after making a crude quip.
A lion mauls and kills a man while onlookers are unable to stop the beast. We later find out the animal had to be put down afterward.
Women run and scream while desperately trying to escape a fire in a sweatshop, and at least one of these women suffocates to death. A body covered in a white sheet is carried out of the building on a stretcher while other victims cough, cry and seek medical treatment.
A teenage boy is whipped by his school’s headmaster for misbehaving. Security guards get into a fistfight with Syrian refugees. Someone gets hit in the leg with a cricket ball. A woman shoves a pie into a man’s face. A man breaks a wine glass when he slams it down on a table. Two boys play roughly with fake swords until their mother stops them, because she’s worried they will poke each other’s eyes out.
A young man describes the plot of the Greek tragedy Oedipus, referring to how Oedipus killed his own father after his father raped and killed a boy. A boy quotes a line from the movie Gladiator about “bathing in blood.” Someone makes a crude joke about abortion.
The f-word is used at least a hundred times, the s-word about 15 times. We hear the c-word three times. There are also 10 uses of “h—,” two uses of “b–ch” and “b–tard,” and one use each of “d–mit” and “p-ss.” The British expletives “bloody” and “ar-e” are heard five times each, and we also hear “tw-t,” “sh-te,” “b-llocks,” “pr-t,” “c–k,” “pr–k,” “b-gger” and “w-nker” once or twice each. Jesus’ name is misused at least five times, and God’s name is abused another two. Someone makes a disparaging remark toward a Syrian refugee.
A man sardonically suggests giving cocaine to a lion; later on, someone slips the drug into the lion’s food, and the lion eats it. A woman snorts cocaine. Samantha asks her son if he is on drugs, and he denies it. Richard refuses drugs at one point, insisting that he doesn’t need them because his natural adrenaline is a drug. People drink alcohol throughout the movie. A woman appears to be inebriated as she grieves her ex-husband’s death.
McCreadie builds his fortune by using illegal methods, such as asset stripping and tax avoidance. He refuses to pay full price for anything and causes a chain reaction with his business deals that results in companies going bankrupt, employees losing their jobs and (in the case of at least one woman) death. McCreadie is described by his employees as a “parasite,” and he verbally assaults them when he doesn’t like their job performance. He also blames them for his own mistakes.
Richard is rude to a group of Syrian refugees camping on a beach near his birthday party. He attempts to have them arrested and later hustles them for free labor. A reality TV show has its stars pass out food to the refugees to make them look good on camera, but the refugees are insulted by the ingenuine gesture.
Sri Lankan employees work for McCreadie under poor conditions, only getting paid four pounds a day for 12 hours of work. The daughter of one of these employees cries when McCreadie makes her wear a slave toga as part of a costume since she already feels like her family is working as literal slaves.
Rudeness, teasing and insults characterize the way many of the characters here relate narcissistically to others. A lion is treated poorly. People gamble at casinos and during casual card games. Someone steals a coin used for a magic trick. A group of children is chased after stealing expensive cutlery. We hear a man vomit. Someone talks about being “regular.”
If pride goes before the fall, then it shouldn’t be difficult to see where “Greedy” McCreadie is heading. To be blunt, he’s a terrible person, and Greed rightfully doesn’t try to portray him in any other way.
Greed also shines a light on the wealth of the fashion industry and the poor working conditions of the foreign factory workers that make it possible. It aims to raise awareness about the underpaid workers that allow people like Richard to become billionaires. So although McCreadie’s character is meant to be fictional, the results of his business deals are based on events that have actually happened.
Unfortunately, despite embracing some admirable goals, this R-rated dramedy comes with a slew of content issues. We hit triple digits when counting f-words, and that doesn’t even cover all the other profanities being thrown around. A man is mauled by a lion jacked up on cocaine. And although there’s no nudity in this film, the sexual content (mostly verbal) is pervasive.
Sir Richard believed that winning was everything—and he was willing to do anything to win. But the fact that Greed is also willing to do anything to get this point across badly undermines some of its positive messages.