February 17, 2020
Steve Coogan’s take on Philip Green is the latest in a long list of tycoons portrayed on screen, ranging from corrupt tax avoiders to smouldering heroes
Greed is ... good? Why Hollywood cant make its mind up about billionaires
Greed is not good in Greed. Director Michael Winterbottom’s new satire shows us wealth in all its vanity, venality and vulgarity, as flaunted by Steve Coogan’s besieged fashion tycoon – a thinly veiled Philip Green (there’s a mental image for you), with hints of Richard Branson, Richard Caring and Nero. Greed – scornful of modern excess and mindful of exploitation – is just the kind of parable we need right now. But movies have been sending out decidedly mixed messages about billionaires recently.
Take a look at Michael Bay’s latest outspaffing, 6 Underground, in which Ryan Reynolds plays a billionaire-playboy-genius type who assembles a vigilante squad dedicated to taking out “truly world-class evil motherfuckers”, however many frantically edited action set-pieces it takes. He could probably make the world a better place just by paying his taxes, but hey. Reynolds’s hero is clearly modelled on that other billionaire-playboy-genius role model of our age: Marvel’s Tony Stark, who – as we all know – is a fantasy version of Elon Musk, except with more civic responsibility and fewer “pedo-guy” jokes. The superhero billionaire club has been highly visible on screen lately. There is Bruce Wayne, of course, but also X-Men’s Charles Xavier, Arrow’s Oliver Queen, Iron Fist (AKA Kung-Fu Trust Fund Kid), and, putting a fresh new spin on feudal wealth, Black Panther.
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