Filth fails to live up to promise

19:35, Nov 24 2013
ANGRY MAN: James McAvoy in a rare reflective moment in Filth.

Directed by Jon S Baird.

There isn't a single reason I can think of that should stop Filth being a ripper of a film. I read the Irvine Welsh novel years ago and I thought then that it would be a simpler story to adapt to screen than Welsh's Trainspotting.

The story revolves around a couple of well drawn characters, the narrative - gut-churning though it may be - is straightforward and economical. And the villain does get his just rewards in a nicely comic-tragic and morally ambiguous finale.

Fine. So will someone please write a decent screenplay based on the novel.

The market is still open, because Jon S Baird, who wrote and directed the version before you has failed spectacularly to even understand the book, let alone adapt it.

Filth follows a few months in the life of a hugely corrupt and decadent Edinburgh detective, as he attempts to sabotage his co-worker's chances at a coveted promotion, while drinking, snorting, beating, and shagging his way through an assortment of hellish encounters.

Baird presents the story as not much more than a series of vaguely connected vignettes. Some work well enough, but the sense of a drama unfolding, with all the tension that should have engendered, is missing.

Trainspotting, a film that Baird is trying laughably hard to evoke, is 17 years old now, but it is still fresher, funnier, more shocking, and just flat-out better than anything Baird manages with Filth.

If you want to see this story done right, then find yourself a copy of Abel Ferrara's 1992 Bad Lieutenant, with Harvey Keitel. Next to that epic creation, James McAvoy's bent copper, and the film he's in, are just a snotty brat desperately seeking a bit of attention.


The Dominion Post