Bigoted, corrupt, sociopathic, misanthropic, alcoholic junkie Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is in line for a promotion. A promotion he sets about attaining by Machiavellian games, manipulating his colleagues, withholding information on a sensitive murder case and sexually harassing the wife of his ‘best friend’ Bladesey (Eddie Marsan).
However, as the racially motivated murder case remains unsolved, his increased drinking, drug taking, sexual misadventures, the office Christmas party, a trip to Amsterdam’s red light district and realisation that his estranged wife and daughter are no longer part of his life, initiate a shift in Bruce’s mood swings. His scheming, bitter, pathetic, rage and insanity give way to a more fragile, tragic and emotionally unstable character.
McAvoy is exceptional in the lead role and totally dominates throughout. If awards were given honestly, for actual performance and not as popularity contests, McAvoy would be on best actor short lists now. He is more than ably supported by the aforementioned Eddie Marsan, as well as Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Gary Lewis and Shirley Henderson.
Credit must also go to director Jon S. Baird for turning the labyrinthine source novel into a cohesive script. Dispensing with the novel’s ‘tapeworm’ inner monologue in favour of dream sequences with psychiatrist Dr Rossi (Jim Broadbent), and adjusting the books revelation about the murder all work well on film. However, there’s still plenty to work with here, freemasonry, drug abuse, sexism, discrimination, racism, pornography, prostitution and alcohol abuse abound. Baird’s directing style works well with the subject matter and is a marked improvement on his debut feature Cass which I also liked.
Comparisons between Filth and Trainspotting are inevitable due to the source material. Irvine Welsh has stated that Filth is the best adaptation of his work, it’s not, Trainspotting is a far superior film in all aspects apart from performance, in that respect they are impossible to split. However, Filth, in dealing with more unsavoury material and a lead character with no redeeming traits was always going to be a much harder sell.
Gritty, darkly humorous, complex and politically incorrect, Filth feels like a throwback to those gloriously unrepentant crime dramas from the 1970’s, which I love. Exceptional performances, great script and solid direction combine to make Filth one of the better films of 2013… and look out for a fantastically surreal cameo in the final third.
November 21, 2013 | Categories: REVIEW: Filth, Reviews | Tags: Actors, Alcohol, Classic, Controversial, Cult, Disturbing, Drugs, Eddie Marsan, Edinburgh, Gary Lewis, Icons, Imogen Poots, Independent, Irvine Welsh, James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Jon S. Baird, Nudity, Serial Killer, Sex, Shirley Henderson, Suspense, Thriller, Violence | Leave a comment