Scot cops – Filth review

Filth

By Simon Miraudo
November 19, 2013

Mothers, lock up your daughters, sons, livestock, and anything else that could possibly be pounced upon by James McAvoy. Not literally the actor, of course, but rather the character he plays in writer-director Jon S. Baird’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth. This is the book, you may recall, that was once breathlessly considered ‘unfilmable’ by the industry on account of its troubling subject matter. Not Trainspotting. This one.

McAvoy stars as detective sergeant Bruce Robertson, a sex-mad miscreant unfortunately (for us) armed with a gun, due to the Scottish police force’s inability to identify the psycho in their midst. Seeking a promotion that will hopefully inspire his estranged wife and daughter to return, he plots to bring down his colleagues by way of ritual sexual humiliation, whilst simultaneously indulging in those same unseemly activities. I’d print a few of those shenanigans here if I didn’t think the mere act of typing them out would lead to me winding up on a ‘watch list’ somewhere.

Filth
There are not enough fainting couches in the world to catch all the politically-correct viewers who will find themselves scandalised by this thing. Filth was made specifically to send anyone who might be offended by casual rape, or made uncomfortable by hearing McAvoy spitting out racial slurs, into a flustered frenzy. It will inevitably be compared to Danny Boyle’s trend-setting Trainspotting, and up against that cinematic milestone, it falls short. Still, Baird  maintains a manic energy worthy of an Irvine Welsh tome, and a couple of fantastical hallucinations recall Terry Gilliam, making this perhaps an even odder and more mind-bending watch than Boyle’s work.

As we near the climax (pun only kind of intended), Robertson is weirdly humanised. I wasn’t surprised McAvoy could embody even this most detestable character with a tinge of empathy. I was, however, a little confounded that the misanthropic source material could allow even a hint of forgiveness for its lead character (and remain unconvinced it serves the story or the character all that well).

Filth
Nonetheless, McAvoy is fearless in the part, jettisoning all his nice-guy cred to depict this gassy, coke-snorting, bondage-loving, manipulative movie monster. Talented supporting performers Eddie Marsan, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Shirley Hendersen, Joanne Froggatt, and Kate Dickie all do well to keep up with him. I could mention their character names and how they contribute to the plot, but it’s immaterial. Everyone in this film is a victim of Robertson. It’s his filthy world, they’re just sucking his … air.

3/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews.

Filth arrives in Australian cinemas November 21, 2013.

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