The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Filth | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Filth

A crooked Edinburgh cop is determined to win a promotion by any means.

Directed by: Jon S Baird
Starring: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt, Shirley Henderson, Jim Broadbent, Kate Dickie, David Soul

There's a promotion up for grabs at the Edinburgh Police Department and detective Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) is determined to land it, seeing it as a way to win back his wife and daughter. Robertson immediately begins undermining the chances of his fellow detectives by pitting them against each other through rumor spreading and back-stabbing. When a Japanese student is murdered by a bunch of local thugs, Robertson sets about solving the case to impress his boss and win the promotion. His crime-solving skills aren't what they used to be, however, as Robertson is an alcoholic coke-addict prone to hallucinations.
'Filth' is an adaptation of a cult 1998 novel by Irvine Welsh, the Scottish writer most famous for that student fave 'Trainspotting'. Though no era is explicitly referenced, Baird's film feels like it belongs among the mass of UK indie movies that arrived in the wake of Danny Boyle's film adaptation of 'Trainspotting'. The director seems determined to imitate Boyle with a "narrator on speed" style of storytelling that feels incredibly dated in 2013.
The reference point may be Abel Ferrara's controversial 1992 'Bad Lieutenant' but 'Filth' has more in common with Werner Herzog's bizarre 2009 Nic Cage starring remake. There are touches of surrealism that even Terry Gilliam would think twice about including. Some are deeply irritating (Broadbent's over the top Aussie psychiatrist), some wildly entertaining (David "Hutch" Soul as a taxi driver who mimes his 1977 hit 'Silver Lady').
There's an insane number of sub-plots being juggled here (the murder of the Japanese student, the promotion race, Robertson's obsession with the widow of a man whose life he attempted to save, Robertson's investigation into his own obscene calls etc) but ultimately Baird lets them collapse and a final act plot twist feels rushed forward for the sake of a comfortable running time. Much of 'Filth' will drive you round the twist but, in its favor, it always maintains the element of surprise. You won't know what to expect from scene to scene and you'll frequently be left feeling confused or betrayed but sometimes it's nice to throw yourself under a narrative bus driven by a maniac. On the evidence of this, Baird is clearly a maniac.

Eric Hillis