Wednesday 26 February 2014


There's a scene in Filth in which detective Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) and his colleague kick down the door of someone they want to question over a murder.  Once illegally entering the apartment they find the suspect with a young girl.  While Robertson’s colleague questions the suspect, Robertson himself takes it upon himself to figure out if the girl is under-age.  Once her real age comes to light (15) he takes enjoyment out of the fact that her father will find out.  Then, in a way of letting her off, he zips down his pants and takes out his penis.  She crawls over, begins to pleasure him and Robertson quickly jumps back in pain and says, “Who though you that technique, a fuckin' cheese grater?” This is Filth is all its disturbing, funny and unpleasant glory.

Directed by Jon S. Baird, Filth is based upon a novel by Irvine Welsh, best known for his other novel Trainspotting, which was brought to worldwide attention by the Danny Boyle’s film of the same name.  Though Trainspotting was hard to watch, many have considered Filth to be unfilmable, as it’s subject matter is so out there.  But it finally got made.  The film that was deemed impossible to make was released, and is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD for your viewing (dis)pleasure.

Filth centres around detective Bruce Robertson in Edinburgh, Scotland.  He's sexist, homophobic, racist, violent and abusive, and throughout the course of the film we witness his spiral out of control and eventual downfall.  Bruce is desperately trying to make Detective Inspector, and over the course of the film he does his best to trip up the competition with what he calls his “games”.  After he's put in charge of solving the brutal murder of a Japanese student, Bruce's life begins to unravel bit by bit.  Add drug and alcohol abuse to that mix, and you have yourself a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.  However there's more than meets the eye here, and despite what the viewer may assume, Filth has enough twists that make this story of self destruction interesting and tragic.

It was always going to be a tall order pulling this film off, but it's done with such reckless ease that you never know whether to laugh or pull back in horror.  From James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson, a man who exploits a friend’s hidden shame about having a small penis to all of his co-workers, to Eddie Marsan as Clifford Blades, a meek friend that Robertson absolutely loves shitting on, the cast here is absolutely fantastic.  But half of Filth's genius comes from McAvoy and how much he propels himself into the role.  His performance is so out there, so unhinged and so fucking insane that it's like watching a train crash, a train that is hurtling towards a brothel and is smacked out on cocaine, cigarettes, booze and chips.

The other half is the visual style and direction Jon S. Baird brings to the film.  From scenes of violence to pure grotesque hilarity, to a genuinely moving scene in which Robertson breaks down while thinking about his wife as he masturbates during a sexually charged prank call, Filth pulls you along through it all by the neck at a hurried pace.  I won't spoil anything, but the underlining problems Robertson has are deep, and near the film’s climax it all really comes to ahead.  And while he's so depraved that we can't really forgive him, he ultimately up being a pretty sympathetic character.

Filth takes a chance.  It's not politically correct as the amount of homophobia, racism and sexism spewing out of it is alarming, but it's not just trying to be edgy, as it is ultimately trying to make a very important point.  Plus, we need films that aren't treading between the lines, afraid of exploring uncharted territory.  Filth has balls, big balls, and it ain't afraid to show them.  People will judge it without seeing it, so give it a watch and see where you stand.

Filth gives the finger to the sensitive viewers and gets a 5/5, []

Denis Murphy

Filth at CeX

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