Thursday, 21 November 2013
FILM REVIEW: FILTH
Icon Film Distribution
As Christmas approaches, the only thing Edinburgh Detective Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) hopes Santa brings him is the highly coveted promotion to Inspector. But even if he didn't have to compete with an assortment of colleagues (including Imogen Poots, and Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) and his dad (Gary Lewis)) for the job, it's highly doubtful that Robertson would be on top of Santa's 'Nice' list. He's been a very, very naughty boy.
A pill-popping, coke-snorting, beer-swilling Scotsman with a libidinous nature may not be the Force's finest but given that Filth is based on an Irvine Welsh novel (he of Trainspotting fame), adapted by director Jon S. Baird, you'd perhaps be foolish for thinking this despicable yet mesmeric protagonist would be otherwise.
And Baird, making just his second feature, dives head first and full-on into the darkly comic Welsh milieu of drugs, violence, misogyny and despair, aided every step of the way by his leading man; McAvoy playing one of the most unlikeable protagonists in cinema this year yet giving one of its (and his) best, most dynamic performances.
Being assigned to investigate the bashing murder of a Japanese student seems to trigger -- or exacerbate -- Robertson's freefall. When he's not working to undermine his colleagues' chances at securing said promotion (or sleeping with one of their wives), he's buddying-up to mild mannered accountant, Bladesey (Eddie Marsan), abusing his friendship at every turn whilst sexually harassing the man's wife (Shirley Henderson) via dirty phone calls, all the while fuelled by a diet of alcohol and drugs and a barely disguised rage.
McAvoy manages to keep Robertson, and his performance, from tipping over the edge even as he goes to some dark and unpleasant places. You may not sympathise or empathise with the detective but you're seeing the world through his eyes, so turning away is rarely an option. Kudos to McAvoy (embracing his native Scottish brogue) for managing to find the humanity amid the chaos of this broken man.
Unfortunately, Baird feels the need to replicate the noise in Roberston's head for the audience: there is barely a moment in the film that is not accompanied -- or smothered -- by a pop or rock track. Even as the hectic pace of the film's first half slows somewhat, there's never a moment's silence or time for contemplation, for the audience or Bruce: he's guaranteed not to be the only one with a headache.
Filth won't be to everyone's liking, particularly those who are not fans of Welsh's writing or twisted sense of humour (the film, not surprisingly, is rated R-18+). McAvoy's performance makes it worthwhile, but not everyone will be willing to wade through the self-created cesspool his character inhabits.