Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Filth (2013)

Can no film top the genius that was Trainspotting?

Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is corrupt, scheming, racist, homophobic, and addicted to sex and drugs—an all-round nasty piece of work who will stop at nothing to secure a promotion that’s just opened up. He believes he’s the right man for the job since he joined the force to take part in its corruption.

An adaptation of the novel by Irvine “Trainspotting” Welsh, Filth plays like a mashup of Bad Lieutenant (either version) and House of Cards (either version), with a sociopath narrator-protagonist right out of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, complete with the surreal visuals and barbed social satire of Terry Gilliam.

What follows is a series of elaborate schemes all orchestrated by James McAvoy’s scruffed up, bipolar junkie cop as part of his “games” to eliminate his colleagues from contending for the promotion. From what I gather, audiences are supposed to be repulsed by his perversity, misanthropy, and compulsive destruction while being entertained, if not seduced, by the copious amount of naughty rule-breaking our bad cop indulges in.

There’s no doubt that the performances by McAvoy and his supporting cast carry the film, as do the visual stylistics that are more homage to Kubrick and Gilliam than slavish imitation. That said, Filth is a rare film noir where the shock of performance and visual style take precedence over dialogue or character-driven storytelling, its third act diminished by a series of hamfisted reveals that show the weakness of the film’s script and its over-reliance on style.

It would seem that the cinematic successor to Trainspotting’s success has yet to be found. In the meantime, the forerunner by a clear margin is Filth.

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