Sunday, March 16, 2014

Film Review: Filth

Copyright: Lionsgate
I wonder is there a moment of saturation when you consume the stories written by Irvine Welsh? I was blown away like everybody else when I watched Trainspotting, and a few years later I loved the The Acid House, possibly even more because I found it equally deplorable and at the same time, somehow more insightful.

Now, almost two decades have passed by, and I’m left unimpressed by the latest Welsh adaptation, Filth. The story about Bruce Robertson, an Edinburgh police detective and his manic, narcotic driven days is close to the heart of the Scottish writer. The novel came out in 1998, but now all that profanity, sex, drugs and politically incorrect insults thrown around don’t seem to have that bitter sting they used to.

I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, but some ideas do creep in – now, everything mentioned is almost regular in many films, no matter what genre they are. Madness that Welsh employs, represented here by the fact that Bruce sometimes sees people as animals they represent (sheep, pig and so forth) and other grotesque psychological details, does pack the biggest punch in the plot, but it still doesn’t ring true like it used to in his earlier adaptations.

The problem probably lies in the fact that the director Jon S. Baird gave the movie too much of an MTV look. Bruce’s hallucinations are clean and shiny and the pandemonium he causes on the streets or anywhere else is always very visually clear to the audience. For a film named Filth, there isn’t any of it in the actual scenes. James McAvoy as Detective Bruce Robertson once again gives his best, just like he did in Trance. In spite of that, he still reminds me of a British version of Bradley Cooper – somehow, I always feel that both misplace or lack that crucial little spark that is genuine in an artist and from where it all comes naturally.

I would be impressed if anybody actually got offended or emotionally involved in this film in any way, positive or negative. For me, Filth is like an industrial version of a famous painting. Welsh made this interesting Frankenstein out of really bad bits and pieces of humanity and gave it a desire to be good and honest, but Baird and his crew dumped him in molten plastic and reanimated him in a form of a Japanese robot – it's working fine, but the original texture is hidden by a bland shell.

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