‘Greedy Lying Bastards” is a lesson in the consequences of unkept promises — those of the politicians and CEOs intent on ignoring the disastrous effects of climate change, and also those made by the film itself. Beginning with a fast-paced montage of angry storm clouds and burned-out homes set to a pounding rock beat, like a climate-change music video, “Greedy” promises a path out of the disastrous status quo.
“What if I told you all this was preventable?” asks the film’s narrator and director, Craig Scott Rosebraugh.
Tell me more, right? But “Greedy Lying Bastards” never really explains how disasters like Hurricane Sandy — possibly accelerated by climate change, it insinuates — can be prevented, preferring instead to serve as a grab bag of environmentally related talking points that never quite congeals into an argument, let alone a prescription.
Continually reframing its argument, “Greedy Lying Bastards” molts, over the course of its 90 minutes, from exploration of the impact of climate change on the weather to shaming of climate-change denialists like the English Lord Monckton — who, as it turns out, is neither a scientist nor a lord — to “Roger & Me”-style face-off with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Along the way, there are stops to examine the Citizens United ruling and a trip to Tuvalu, where climate change may submerge the entire remote Pacific island.
Rosebraugh casts himself as the Michael Moore-esque everyman intent on having his say. But the moment of truth, when it does arrive, is so undramatic as to hardly merit inclusion in the film. The fundamental core of “Greedy Lying Bastards” — its attempt to capture traces of the global effects of climate change — is never adequately explained or depicted. And the most dramatic moments in the film are the most tenuously linked to its ostensible topic. Watching as a boy stumbles across the Nativity scene from the family’s Christmas decorations in the rubble of their burned-out house after the Colorado Springs wildfire of 2012 is undoubtedly moving, but its connection to climate change is tenuous at best.
The film’s zippy graphics are a treat, but its zippy arguments are slipshod. “It’s time to stop these bastards,” the director tells us in the film’s final shot, as he marches solo on the Capitol. It might have been nice to have a better sense of just how we do that.Saul Austerlitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.