Greed is the way of the world. It always has been. Art reflects humanity so it's no shock cinema obsesses over greed. It's the most primal of vices. It's the go-to, off-the-shelf trait for most villains. And it's a common one for flawed protagonists too. So with the release of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps last week I felt it was time to point out the greediest of cinema's greedy bastards.
In order to narrow the focus, I chose greed-heads who desire material wealth. Otherwise, I'd have to consider every sex fiend, glutton, and vampire in movie history too. Obviously there were a few "juuust misses" such as Tuco from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Goodfellas' Jimmy Conway, Hank and Sarah Marshall from A Simple Plan, and Aguirre: The Wrath of God's titular character. Ebenezer Scrooge was another character considered. Yet despite the countless adaptations of "A Christmas Carol," I felt he's a literary character above all else. Plus, he's just too damn easy. Not a very good reason. But I'm clinging to it.
So, now that a few possibilities are off the list, let's roll out this greed parade.
Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Trading Places)
When Randolph and Mortimer Duke aren't destroying lives over the bet of one dollar, these silver-spoon fed geezers are rigging the stock market to add even more zeros to their already obnoxious accumulative wealth. They're the faces of all that is wrong with the modern American bourgeois Wall Street culture. Unlike reality where Wall Street crooks rarely lose, these two money-kissing snobs get cleared out and decimated. As an added bonus to their comeuppance, look for their cameos as street vagrants in Coming to America.
Lex Luthor (Superman and Superman Returns)
All Lex Luthor wants is to own some land and build condos. So what if it means nuking a chunk of the west coast off into the Pacific or creating an entire new continent in the Atlantic? Millions or billions may die, but damn it, Luthor will come out as the king-pin of real-estate development (suck on it Donald Trump). Too bad no amount of money in the universe will buy off that jerk Superman.
Tony Montana (Scarface)
Admittedly Tony Montana mainly wants the money so he can get the power so he can get the "woomen." Montana is an insatiable greed machine. If you got money, he wants it plus more. If you got coke, he wants it plus more. If you got his sister as your "wooman", he's going to covet that too. Montana wants the world when just a little slice of Miami would satisfy most.
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As much as I would love to praise A Most Violent Year simply based on the fact J.C. Chandor continues to test himself, it's nevertheless a film that feels as if it's trying to be something rather than actually being that something.