Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots
Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) is a bigoted and bipolar Edinburgh policeman who shags, snorts and drinks his way through life with excess being an understatement. After the brutal murder of a Japanese student, in an attempt to get the promotion he so badly craves Bruce takes on the case while manipulating and lying to turn his colleagues against each other to get that promotion. As the lies and his excesses only increase, Bruce is forced to deal with his biggest hurdle: his own fractured sanity.
As someone who has not read Irvine Welsh’s novel, I can only review this as a film and whether in my opinion it works as a film. I am in no position to compare this film to the book and whether it does justice to the source material, but I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing.
One thing I find that is so hard to get right, especially in film, is take a protagonist that is blatantly an unashamedly horrible human being, but make him likeable. We all like Edmund Blackadder and Malcolm Tucker, in fact part of their appeal is that they say some of the things we would love to say but you just cannot in the real world. However, the fact is that if these were people we knew then we would want nothing to do with them. Well, Bruce Robertson is certainly an extreme example of this, but for a protagonist driven piece like this, for it to work such a real genuinely despicable character still has to be likeable. Thankfully in my view it does and Filth is an ashamedly nasty and disgusting, but also extremely enjoyable and darkly funny surreal trip that is also occasionally genuinely moving. Mark my words, this is no mean feat.
At the centre of all the sheer god damn nastiness is an incredible performance from James McAvoy, making Bruce a true anti hero. He is a vile human being, but yet we cannot help but share in his enjoyment. When required, McAvoy provides the depth and emotion, as well as a physical appearance perfect for any anti drinking campaign, as we take an often frightening trip into his fractured mind. This may not justify his actions, but goes a little to explaining them, adding that bit of necessary depth to provide the necessary substance (no pun intended).
It is not all darkness, and Baird’s energetic direction and the (surprisingly festive) soundtrack, along with the a running time of under 100 minutes, keep things ticking along with an underlying energy and predominant (and often extremely dark) sense of humour. This is not a film to take predominantly seriously, and is quite simply an entertaining watch of pure escapism fun. The humour varies from puerile, outrageous, surreal, Frank Sidebottom and just downright nasty, but it is always developed with such not-giving-a-shit confidence that it is impossible not to simply enjoy the trip.
Though McAvoy is deservedly the star, the supporting cast are all having tremendous fun, and only add to the trip. Jim Broadbent, John Sessions and Jamie Bell are all excellent. I also never thought I would see Eddie Marson off his head in a Hawaiian shirt raving, but I now have.
Naturally ‘from the creator of Trainspotting’ is all over the posters, this is not up there with that film, but never wants to be. This is a different kind of trip, and one that is as raucous as it is outrageous, but ever afraid to change moods at breakneck speed. It will not change your life or your view on anything, but is a quick fire 100 minutes that is never less than disgracefully enjoyable. It is a unique humour that admittedly will not appeal to all, and those easily offended should probably avoid this one.
Intentionally horrible and nasty, but always disgustingly funny with surprising moments of genuine emotion; Filth is an energetic and disgustingly horrible trip that is always very enjoyable.