Based upon the 1998 novel by Irvine Welsh (the Scot behind “Trainspotting”) “Filth” is a movie that the audience will either love or hate, there is no middle ground. When I told my friend Manda Barker that I was reviewing this film she pointed out that she “HATED HATED HATED IT” and thought it was one of the worst films of the past year. While it is true that the subject is not to everyone’s taste, those who decide to view “Filth” will uncover a movie that is wonderfully over-the-top and features a great performance by James McAvoy.
A Scottish version of the movie “Bad Lieutenant”, “Filth” is about Detective Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) as he vies for a promotion within his department. While Bruce is popular with his superiors and fellow officers, it is quickly shown that the man is a sociopath, drug addict, and sex fiend. Bruce has no qualms about emotionally abusing his best friend (Eddie Marsan), bumping cocaine, or screwing hookers and his fellow officer’s wives. Bruce’s ideal world comes apart though when he is assigned a murder case of an Asian student, and as his world falls apart he is given to hallucinations and even more self destructive behavior.
The movie captures Welsh’s novel perfectly: the movie crafts a straight forward narrative that also remains true to the novels internal consciousness. For example, the movie cuts back and forth between Bruce directly breaking the fourth wall with the audience as well as showing Bruce’s hallucinations. Additionally, there are also several sequences such as when Bruce’s wife Carol gets into a car driven by David Soul and they perform his song “Silver Lady”. While this understandably has an alienating effect upon the audience, I found these sequences to be interesting and outside of the box. By adhering to this style of directing, director John S. Baird presents the story as something unique instead of letting it become a true Scottish remake of “Bad Lieutenant.”
Another great part of the film is the performance by James McAvoy. The audience can tell that McAvoy loves this part and embraces all the craziness that comes with portraying Bruce Robertson. It is because of McAvoy’s performance that I ended up liking the character of Robertson and wanted him to continue doing insane things as the character. The problem with this type of performance is that it does tend to overshadow the other performances of the film, such as Jamie Bell as Bruce’s partner and Imogen Poots as Bruce’s rival.
While “Filth” can be a bit uncomfortable to watch and is not for everyone, “Filth” is an interesting adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel and features a wonderfully crazy performance by James McAvoy. Just make sure to know that this movie contains lots of bad language, sex, nudity, drug use, and a killer soundtrack.
Fun Fact: Seriously, the soundtrack to this movie is amazing. And below is the crazy closing sequence.