Scheming Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), a bigoted, corrupt drug-addicted Scottish policeman, is in line for a promotion and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Enlisted to solve a brutal murder and threatened by the aspirations of his colleagues, including Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell), Bruce sets about ensuring their ruin, right under the nose of unwitting Chief Inspector Toal (John Sessions). As he turns his colleagues against one another by stealing their wives and exposing their secrets, Bruce starts to lose himself in a web of deceit that he can no longer control. His past is slowly catching up with him, and a missing wife, a crippling drug habit and suspicious colleagues start to take their toll on his sanity. The question is: can he keep his grip on reality long enough to disentangle himself from the filth?
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Dark, subversive, chaotic and confronting, Filth seems to have been enormous fun for the cast and crew, but I'm not sure if many audiences will revel in the filth that the title so openly warns us of. Of course, it's familiar territory for Irvine Welsh fans, but is the adaptation as successful an experience as his novel?
It earns its R18+ rating and consumer advice of high impact sex scenes, strong impact themes, violence, nudity and drug use. Of course, it's the context that counts, but for me, the context is about as interesting as a drunk vomiting on the sidewalk. Yes it happens; do I want to be there?
The performances are wonderful and the filmmaking combines bravura with energy; that's why I say they all loved the making of it. James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson is a constant surprise with his range; he can play innocents and filthy with equal ease. His deterioration is superbly measured; I wish I cared for the character, but not even the sob story that we learn as we go can turn me around. He is matched by the entire cast, with Imogen Poots a standout as a colleague as is Shirley Henderson as a colleague's wife in a dubious relationship with a prank sex caller and Bruce.
The filmmakers fuse fantasy with reality to approximate Bruce's frail and failing state of mind, but this creates the problem of dissonance for the audience. I suspect it's meant to be really funny, butwWe are kept at arm's length and disengaged by the complex fantasies that are delivered to us, each a new layer on the underlying reality.
To press home Bruce's cocaine snorting, drinking and sexual trips, the film overdoses on them all and becomes a tad repetitious. Watching others do all that is less thrilling than participating, I would suggest, and leads to a sort of ennui.
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CAST: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Iain De Caestecker, Joanne Frogatt, Shirley Henderson, Emun Elliott, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent, Polyanna McIntosh, John Sessions
PRODUCER: Mark Amin, Jon S. Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler
DIRECTOR: Jon S. Baird
SCRIPT: Jon S. Baird (novel by Irvine Welsh)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Jensen
EDITOR: Mark Eckersley
MUSIC: Clint Mansell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mike Gunn
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 21, 2013