It’s been almost two decades since actor Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom - both Brits - first teamed up to make the eccentric, based-on-fact comedy “24 Party People,” in which Coogan starred as music entrepreneur Tony Wilson. Though both men have had stellar careers on their own - a glance at their résumés on IMDB.com is quite impressive - something just clicks when they work together. (Check out “Tristram Shandy” or any of their films in the “Trip” series.)

With “Greed,” Winterbottom has written and directed a sharp, smart, and biting satire that takes serious issues, turns them on their heads by infusing a dark comedic element, and provides an opportunity for Coogan to sink his teeth into the role of a despicable individual who it’s fun to root against.

He plays Sir Richard McCreadie, a successful, ridiculously wealthy British fashion industry businessman who is facing two major milestones. He’s about to turn 60, and he realizes he needs to do something about his well-earned and extremely tarnished public image. How about throwing a big party in his own honor? How about making it a huge party? Let’s build a seaside amphitheater in Greece and recreate some gladiator games - a lion in a cage would be a nice touch - and invite everyone he knows that he wants to impress, and pepper the crowd with celebrities, or at least celebrity lookalikes. Well, now, that should celebrate 60 with style and make everyone think that he’s a good guy, not a jerk.

The problem is that he is, indeed, a jerk. That’s made clear from how he makes demands of and talks down to the men who are constructing his amphitheater. It’s shown that he insists on always having his way and is used to ordering people around. A flashback to a courtroom hearing concerning his business practices a few months earlier has him being rude and smarmy to his questioners. Asked about his possibly illegal history of opening businesses that soon go out of business, he dismisses the accusation with “I’m an entrepreneur. I take risks.” Flashing back further to his early days in clothing retail, he’s seen as a stubborn, hard-driving dealmaker who is full of himself. Going back even further in time, to his school days, it’s no surprise to discover that he was a jerk then, too.

Everything is seen through the eyes of this terrible man, as well as through those of two other characters - his unhappy assistant Amanda (Dinita Gohil), who knows all of his nasty tricks, and his easily flustered official biographer Nick (David Mitchell) who, after checking into McCreadie’s past and interviewing former employees, is beginning to get a picture of just how awful this guy is.

Yet, jumping all over the place in locations and time, and featuring an oddball cast of characters - his control freak mom (Shirley Henderson) is very protective of him; his ex-wife (Isla Fisher) loves money more than he does - the film is quite funny, often looking at the absurdities surrounding McCreadie. For instance, it brutally and comically bursts the bubble of TV reality shows. One frustrated “contestant” on an episode being filmed near the partially built amphitheater blurts out, “I forgot my line!”

The film moves along at a breezy clip, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, grows darker. Not just concerning problems with the impending party - construction grinds to a halt, guests start sending in regrets - but also in addressing issues of racism, rampant capitalism and resulting wealth inequality. Don’t worry, the party does happen, but it morphs into a sort of bad dream, with threats of it turning into a nightmare. And it’s still darkly funny! “Greed” gives us another great Coogan performance and another complete original from Winterbottom.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“Greed”
Written and directed by Michael Winterbottom
With Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher, David Mitchell, Shirley Henderson, Dinita Gohil
Rated R