Tom Leins reviews Filth and This Ain’t California in this week’s DVD round-up.
Filth (Lionsgate) tells the story of Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy, Welcome To The Punch), a corrupt, drug-addicted cop who finds himself in line for an unlikely promotion and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Tasked with solving a brutal murder, Bruce is more concerned with engineering the downfall of his similarly hapless colleagues, and avoiding the suspicions of his unwitting boss Chief Inspector Toal (John Sessions). As his drink and drug intake spirals out of control, Bruce finds himself plagued by hallucinatory, animal-themed visions, and begins to come unstuck in the demented web of deceit he has weaved.
Originally published in 1998, Filth was Irvine Welsh’s third novel, and long considered un-filmable by Welsh enthusiasts. Well-directed by Jon S. Baird -the man behind average 2008 hooligan flick Cass -the movie is powered by a bleak, nihilistic energy, and comes across like a deep-fried Scottish reworking of Bad Lieutenant! Better than previous Welsh adaptations such as the muddled Acid House (1998) and the dreary Ecstasy (2011), Filth is worth watching for McAvoy’s terrific performance, but is likely to disappoint viewers hoping for another injection of Trainspotting-style magic.
Indeed, the spectre of Danny Boyle’s inspired 1996 movie looms large over Filth. Despite slick, hallucinatory visuals and a reliably sick sense of humour, Filth adds up to less than the sum of its parts, with the slapdash narrative too unconvincing for comfort. A respectable effort, which could yet achieve cult status.
This Ain’t California (Upfront) is a self-styled ‘documentary tale’ that explores the unlikely skateboarding scene that thrived in communist East Berlin during the 1980s. Following the unexpected death of former skate-scene poster-boy Denis ‘Panik’ Paraceck, who is shot and killed in Afghanistan, his former friends and professional acquaintances gather at one of their former haunts to discuss his legacy. Through a blend of found footage, quirky animation and archival clips, filmmaker Marten Persiel weaves together a spirited story of retro recreational rebellion.
First-time director Persiel found himself in hot water after the film’s premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, when he conceded that most of the film’s striking archive footage was actually shot in the present day with a group of young German skaters alongside a number of non-actors, while Panik himself is portrayed by German model Kai Hillebrandt. Similarly, among the posse of retired skaters who congregate to pay their last respects for Panik also comprise a smattering of actors, amplifying the deception. Whether the ruse is well-intentioned or not -admirers have suggested that Persiel was aiming to recreate a mood, rather than offer a slavish historical portrait -it makes for an engaging curio.