Running Time: 97 mins
Reviewr: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
The making of Trainspotting was a match made in heaven. Combining the black humoured sting of writer, Irvine Welsh with the visual prowess and frenetic energy of director, Danny Boyle resulted in one of the most important and iconic Scottish films to hit the big screen in decades. Mixing surreal imagery, shocking scenes of hilarity and violence and a career best performance from a young Ewan McGregor it hit the cinemas at the right time. It was fresh, punchy and carried a stonking soundtrack with a mix of best of 90’s British music. Having just come off the back of Boyle’s ambitious crime thriller Trance, James McAvoy has stepped into the role of another infamous character penned by Welsh, namely Detective Bruce Robertson. Whereas the protagonist of Trainspotting was on a downward spiral of drugs and crime, in Filth the main character has already reached rock bottom and is now travelling deeper into the foundations.
The similarities with Trainspotting are evident within the fast moving and hilarious first quarter of Filth. Director Jon S Baird allows the gloriously immoral detective to introduce the world of Bruce Robertson, a seemingly ambitious, bitter and cynical man that has his eyes firmly set on a fast track promotion vacancy and annihilating any competition that stand in his way. This includes his young and impressionable colleague, Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell), department idiot, Gus Bain (Gary Lewis) and the cold but smart, Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots). Bruce also has the advantage over his colleagues of heading the investigation to a racial attack and impressing his work and lodge superiors in the process. However the detective’s priority is his holiday to Hamburg with his timid accountant friend, Bladesey (Eddie Marsan). There is also the issue of sexually harassing the accountant’s ‘tiger obsessed’ wife, Bunty (Shirley Henderson) with lewd phone calls and banging a fellow detective’s partner (Kate Dickie) who gets a kick out of administering sexual asphyxiation. Everything would likely be going to plan if it wasn’t for the fact that Bruce is at the point of mental and physical collapse due to his drug, alcohol and psychological problems. It seems his only glimmer of salvation and happiness lies with a chance meeting with a single mother and her young son.
It would be unwise to approach Filth expecting any form of subtlety and pretty shots of Scotland’s attractive capital city. Baird pummels his audience with so many puerile and unspeakable images within the first few minutes that it is hard to feel much compassion towards the outcome of any of the main characters or shock by the time the story reaches the half-way point. Depending on your taste this segment of the film is occasionally gut wrenchingly funny. Perhaps the reason that the aspects of melodrama don’t quite ring true, is because of the anarchic and cartoon-like shenanigans that have preceded them.
Even though the film consists of one disgusting image after another, Baird has wisely toned down and altered some of the original content from the novel. The only alteration that seems to fail completely is replacing Robertson’s parasite problem with that of his Australian doctor (Jim Broadbent). The surreal dreams and hallucinations are irritating, pointless and unfunny.
For the most part the acting honours are first rate with Eddie Marsan and a rare appearance from John Sessions in particular, proving to be extremely impressive. Others such as Jamie Bell and Martin Compston have little to work with in their roles. Yet the film would not be getting the praise it has received had it not been for McAvoy. The Scottish thespian delivers a simply breath taking turn as the corrupt and ultimately broken policeman. He bends the rules, betrays friends, abuses underage girls, bullies colleagues and threatens women but behind the hatred is a terrified man who has never come to terms with a cruel incident from his past. Bruce is also well aware of the monster that he has become but cannot find a way of clawing his way back to kind hearted person he once was. It is easier to destroy others than come to terms with the pain that he is experiencing. McAvoy is a glorious mix of spitting hatred and raised veins as he wrecks and creates havoc wherever he goes.
Those with a twisted enough imagination will undoubtedly figure out as to where the story is heading come the final quarter but will be surprised as to how well the reveal is handled by this truly wonderful actor. If there was any justice then James McAvoy would be standing on the podium picking up his first Best Actor Award come the Oscars in 2014. But similar to the Irvine Welsh novel, when was there ever any justice?
The Blu-Ray contains deleted scenes, extended scenes, outtakes, audio commentary by Irvine Welsh and Jon S. Baird and interviews.