Anti-heroes are always fun to watch, especially when they’re foul-mouthed and from the U.K. (Bronson & Dom Hemingway are two prime examples as of late). There’s something very appealing about watching them struggle to behave properly and their antics are usually pretty hilarious. These anti-heroes are the one’s who carry their films and it’s great when they can. Unfortunately, even the best performance can’t save a sinking ship of a film, even though you really, really wanted it to.
Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is perhaps the most unappealing and appalling men to ever walk the Earth. His methods are unorthodox and corrupt, but he couldn’t care less about what other people think of how he affects other people. All he cares about is being promoted, in hopes that his sex life with his wife will restart. This means, he has no problem with sabotaging his partner Ray (Jamie Bell) and causing a disturbance in the life of his friend Clifford (Eddie Marsan).
When he’s not slacking off on the job, Bruce is often consuming as much cocaine as he can and is often having some rough love with the wives of his co-workers and friends. As his life gets progressively worse and more repulsive, Bruce begins to have hallucinations and his brain seems to slowly start deteriorating. No matter what, though, Bruce is determined to do whatever it takes to ensure that he earns the promotion and becomes the top dog in Scotland.
Filth is the most recent adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel, with the greatest one being the astounding Trainspotting. Welsh has quite the twisted mind and outlook on life, but his zany stories also reflect on human nature and the concept of morality. His characters are anti-heroes and you can’t help but enjoy watching Bruce fall deeper down the rabbit hole. This film pushes the boundaries and then some and it never refrains from getting down and dirty. The no-holds-barred direction of this film, coupled with its crazy characters, creates an outrageous film that you have to see to believe.
James McAvoy, without a doubt, gives the performance of his career and he absolutely shines in this messed up film. As Inspector Bruce Robertson, McAvoy has zero limitations and embodies everything that this world frowns upon. He’s manipulative of his colleagues, friends, suspects, and he even goes as far as harassing citizens. However, that’s just another day in the coke-fueled life of James McAvoy, that also includes some crazy sexual antics which you won’t be able to unsee. McAvoy doesn’t understand the word “control” and he completely loses himself in this role. only emphasizing the moral degradation of his character. With an awesome Scottish to boot, McAvoy entertains on every level and leaves a lasting impact on you long after the film ends. Dare I say that this man deserves an Oscar-nomination for this role!
Filth deals heavily with morality and the game known as “life”, which opens it up to endless explorations of its characters and the world they inhabit. Every character gets their own descriptions from Bruce’s perspective, but we also get to know them when they interact with one another. They all have their own issues and deep-seeded emotions, which play right into Bruce’s hands. They skirt around this hellish portrayal of Scotland and the people we encounter are all caricatures of everything that’s wrong with the world today. The social commentary is spot-on and all morality goes out the window when ambition takes over. Director Jon S. Baird highlights all the bad in the world, but also shows that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately, Filth doesn’t feel as complete as it should. With many quick-cuts, the film jumps back-and-forth between a very serious scene and then a goofy scene, leaving you scratching your head in curiosity. The way certain characters and scenes are presented are also questionable, in the sense that you’re never quite sure of what purpose they serve. That is, until the narration kicks in and you’re spoon-fed everything you’d need to know. As if all that was frustrating enough, there’s the sub-plot with the doctor and the drugs that Bruce has been prescribed. There’s not enough detail in those scenes to fully grasp what’s happening within Bruce’s mind. I would have loved more elaboration in those instances, especially since the novel’s incorporation of those scenes explains a lot about the character.
At right around 100-minutes, you’d expect this film to go in a lot of different directions and be able to tell a cohesive story. While it definitely takes us all over the place, it does so in a jumbled manner. Certain plot points are emphasized, but are never returned to later on in the film. We get snippets of info on a particular person or place and then that’s the last we hear of it. There’s so much potential for this film to be great, but it squanders any of those opportunities by focusing on shocks, rather than its story. There are many great moments of humanity, but they too are cut short for the sake of showing you something absurd.
There really aren’t enough words to describe Filth and everything that it’s made up of, but it’s an admirable adaptation of a novel that’s just as hard to summarize. I would recommend this film without hesitation, just on the basis of McAvoy’s master-class performance. He’s truly glorious and this performance demands to be seen by the masses. I strongly believe that McAvoy is one of the best and most underrated actors of his generation and I’m hopeful that this film will put him on everyone’s radars. If you liked Trainspotting, you’ll enjoy this film to some degree. It’s definitely not a film that’s going to be wholly appealing to everyone, but I think there’s enough of everything in this film to appeal to anyone.