Sometimes even despite having 20 titles or more in the “available now” section of my Netflix queue I find myself in a crunch deciding what to move up to the #1 spot. Then there are other times where there’s maybe 5 movies vying for the spot on any given week (the second half of October is looking exceptional for DVD releases by the way). I more or less chose this film amongst the many in the litter because well, there really wasn’t all that much else on my queue that was available that stood out. I like James McAvoy a fair amount but I can’t say I usually choose a film solely based on him being in it. I did like him in the original version of the British TV series “Shameless” and in films like “Atonement” (2007), “Wanted” (2008), and last year’s “Trance”. He’s a very respectable actor. The trailer also stood out as it looked pretty sick, twisted, and depraved. Similar to Danny Boyle’s incredible “Trainspotting” (1996) which only makes sense given that it’s written by the same author as the film in which that was based on, Irvine Welsh. I’ve read both Welsh’s “Trainspotting” and “The Acid House” when I was a teenager; though never “Filth”, to know enough going into what I more or less should be expecting. Because of my familiarity with the types of characters and stories he writes about. But still, I can’t go so far as to say I had the highest of expectations for it.
The film itself, like most of Welsh’s novels, takes place in Scotland. The story revolves around a Detective in the local police department (played impressively by McAvoy). He is up for a promotion to Detective Sargeant, and goes around doing everything in his power to be sure he lands the promotion, while also engaging in every sort of illegal activity possible to ensure that he won’t. This guy is right up on par with both Harvey Keitel and Nicolas Cage in the “Bad Leiutenant” movies (1992 and 2009). He gets off on things like busting other people’s chops by manipulating them, being a sexual predator and happily commiting adultery, perverse sexual games and masterbation, and participating in copious amounts of drinking and drug use. Yep. This isn’t your average policeman. It’s one that could possibly only exist in the twisted Irvine Welsh universe. The central story line being that a murder takes place. One that offers McAvoy’s character the “in” he needs in order to secure his promotion. The movie then follows the every step of his debaucherous journey. Coming back every now and then to remind us that it’s still a film about a murder taking place and the efforts (or lack thereof) that he tries to make to solve it.
What we wind up with is not so good a film that has a particularly good time with itself. It’s more or less an exercise in style over substance. I personally liked the look of it. It was shot proficiently well enough and used some unique camera angles to convey the drugged and tripped out images on screen. It also had a kind of playfulness and whimsy about it; almost fantasy-like, that I thought served the material well. McAvoy does a great job in his role. A role that I found strinkingly similar to that of Jude Law’s earlier in this year’s “Dom Hemingway”. The kind of role that the director allows the actor to go all out bat shit crazy while performing and relishing in the spectacle of it all. It also boasts a pretty solid soundtrack of recognizable classic rock hits that I had a good time with. All of that aside, the plot gives aimless a new name. It’s incredibly shallow and pointless. That and it totally loses its footing in the 2nd half and goes into “now we’re supposed to feel bad for the guy/sentiment” territory. Sorry but there was zero emotional interest on behalf of myself other than having fun with the character for them to ask me to actually care about him. In fact, all I really wanted to do was to continue to see him drinking, drugging, and whoring himself out until there wasn’t really much left of him at all. That would have been more befitting and appropriate given the tone of the first half. But then again, I did have barely enough fun with the movie despite its aimlessness and shallowness because at the very least it was a shot of adrenaline. Which is much more than I get from so many other movies these days.