“Sick, twisted, demented, bizarre” are some of the words used to describe Filth in its sledgehammer trailer, and it certainly indulges itself in all manner of things, but I would say I was surprised at its equally compelling lead character.
Based off the novel by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) Filth is set in Scotland during the Christmas season and follows a drug abusing, sex mad police officer with a superiority complex who goes on a rampage against his fellow officers so he can land a promotion. The promotion, he believes, will win back the hearts and minds of his wife and daughter.
Filth is a great film, and certainly stands tall beside Trainspotting (though it is a very different story) and while I’ve not read the book I can say the film carries the multitude of characters well.
Casing point is James McAvoy, who continues his big screen storm with yet another deeply unhinged character (see this year’s Trance) and he is utterly engrossing here as a plotting, immoral monster. The meat of the film is his terrorism of his peers, mostly through ruining their relationships and destroying their professionalism, elevating himself in the eyes of his superiors in the process. Begin a loud, angry procession of drugs, drinking and sex, all from McAvoy’s Bruce Robertson’s perspective.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Trainspotting had its own level of surrealism, and Filth certainly maintains that as it develops. We see our lead character slowly unravel and experience intense fever dreams, and the plot itself deliberately collapses along with him. Underneath this growing pile of human depravity, the film lands a surprisingly deep twist to take the entire audience by surprise (I don’t want to spoil it for those like me who haven’t read the book!)
It also sports a great sense of humour, executed frequently with McAvoy’s sly expressions, a lot of it comes from Scotland’s own personality (Bruce’s inner monologue about the Scottish people is great)
It is a certificate 18, hard R film, it isn’t a film I would re-watch over and over, but it is something to behold at least once in your life. I could argue further that the film (for how loaded it is) could have been a bit longer; as we see more of Bruce’s past the more it becomes fleeting glances, I would have liked just a little more of it. But then that may have lessened the film’s cleverness.
If you can stomach a lot of drug-use, sex and jarringly strange visuals at times, give it a try! I guarantee you haven’t seen anything like it.