An adaptation of the best-selling novel from the author who gave us Trainspotting, Filth (18) is a gritty and bizarre exploration of abuse, illness, and insanity.
What’s It About? Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a corrupt police detective who enjoys nothing more than hard drink, harder drugs, abusive sex, and manipulating others in cruel and pointless ways with what he calls ‘the games’. As he desperately tries to be promoted to Detective Inspector, it’s clear that he’s not quite in touch with the world around him as he falls into a pit of malice and self-loathing.
Verdict: There’s a lot more to Filth than initially meets the eye. At first glance it may appear to be a controversial montage of explicit scenes compiled to create outrage, but once the film gets going, you’re privy to a much deeper story with one of the overriding themes being abuse. Whether it’s Bruce abusing others or himself both physically and mentally, it becomes more and more clear that this loathsome character isn’t just a malicious and spiteful person, but mentally ill and harboring troubled memories.
Throughout the film Bruce is an incredibly unlikable character; he appears to have no redeeming features and purposefully hurts anybody who crosses his path. Despite this, the film remains an enjoyable watch and although it does become slightly distressing to witness, a little part of you is always eager to see what new low Bruce will stoop to next.
The story is fast-paced and relatively strong, and benefits from an exceptional leading man in James McAvoy who gives the stand-out performance of his career. It’s clear that McAvoy immersed himself in this incredibly complex character, a character which needed absolutely perfect casting to work so well. As the film’s deranged protagonist, McAvoy effortlessly carries the film and, despite Bruce being utterly intolerable, he becomes strangely captivating to watch. In addition, McAvoy’s performance is aided by a great supporting cast, including Eddie Marsan and Jamie Bell, who provide a perfect balance to Bruce’s deteriorating mental state and add to the film’s authenticity.
Filth is incredibly strong for the first three quarters of the film, but as it edges towards its climax, the storytelling starts to suffer. While director Jon S. Baird’s adaptation sticks closely to the overall premise of the book, much of Irvine Welsh’s original narrative has been changed, which impacts some of the story’s brilliance.
Even though the ending of the film remains entertaining and a thrilling watch, it could do with slightly more context as the final scenes aren’t quite as hard-hitting as they would have been had the audience been a little more informed about Bruce’s background, as they are in the novel. There is a big reveal towards the end of the film, but so little time is dedicated to explaining it that it seems a bit gratuitous, instead of being an emotionally charged twist as it is in the book. This is a shame as the twist comes across brilliantly in Welsh’s novel and, up until this point, the film really is a great adaptation.
Extras: Audio commentary with author Irvine Welsh and writer-director Jon S. Baird, interviews with James McAvoy, Welsh, and Baird, deleted scenes, extended scenes and outtakes. The variety of DVD extras is impressive but a relatively underwhelming watch, however, some of the deleted scenes are cherished moments from the book, which will no doubt please dedicated fans.
Final Words: Filth is most definitely worth a watch, especially for McAvoy’s brilliant performance and the pure outlandishness of it all! It’s fast-paced and at 97 minutes long, it’s the perfect length to keep the story fresh and full of charisma.
Filth is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 10 February 2014.