Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 18
  • Black Comedy, Crime
  • 2013
  • 97 mins

Filth

Film4

Synopsis

Enlisted to solve an important murder case with a big promotion on the line, Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), the dirtiest of dirty cops, goes to extreme lengths to get what he wants.

About

Writer-director Jon S. Baird (Cass) wastes no time in laying out exactly the kind of irredeemably debauched character we’re dealing with in his twisted adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel of the same name. By the end of the opening act we’ve seen James McAvoy’s Bruce Robertson plan the downfall of his colleagues, repeatedly break the law he’s employed to enforce, abuse his position to sexually assault a minor, spew out a litany of horrendously bigoted remarks, make obscene crank calls to his best friend’s wife (using the voice of Frank Sidebottom, no less), and indulge in some extremely perverse sexual activities - all while subsisting on a cocktail of hard drugs and alcohol. He’s an utterly vile human being, but he's a compelling lead, and we follow him through an increasingly murky period in his life, during which both his behavior and his sense of sanity begin to deteriorate even further.

There’s no room for half-measures, and McAvoy gamely throw himself into things headfirst, delivering a blistering, balls-to-the-wall performance that’s among his very best. Watching the character sink to the very depths of depravity will either be entertaining, hilarious or horrifying depending on your perspective, but those aspects are only superficial. It’s in McAvoy’s portrayal of a man slowly losing his grip on reality that Filth really comes into its own, and Baird’s direction is the perfect complement. Each scene almost feels like it’s being presented through a prism, refracting Robertson’s ever-changing lucidity. So we get periods that are fast and frenetic and others that are hazy and dreamlike. And then there are Robertson’s hallucinations, which at times are just flat out bonkers.

Somehow Baird manages to wrangle all of the competing elements into something approaching a cohesive narrative, and while we’re not asked to like, identify with, or even remotely root for Robertson, we’re asked to stick with him in the hope that he'll find a glimmer of humanity at the end of this squalid tunnel. When the eventual payoff comes at the end of a less-controlled final act, it does feel both earned and satisfying, but there’s an uneasy sense that we’ve followed Robertson further down the rabbit hole than we would have liked. But Filth aims to unsettle, and it does that with aplomb, no matter how dirty it may make you feel along the way.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Imogen Poots, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Eddie Marsan, Jamie Bell
  • Director: Jon S Baird
  • Screen Writer: Jon S Baird
  • Writer (Book): Irvine Welsh
  • Composer: Clint Mansell

In a nutshell

James McAvoy steals the show with his complex portrayal of a sociopath in this deftly directed, no-holds-barred black comedy.

by Joe Cunningham

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Silver Linings Playbook

    Silver Linings Playbook

    Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this Oscar-winning romantic dramedy that deals with the implications of a relationship forming in the midst of mental illness

  • Film4 The Wackiest Ship In The Army

    The Wackiest Ship In The Army

    Jack Lemmon stars as a Lieutenant tricked into taking command of a ship full of misfits, tasked with a top secret mission to save hundreds of allied lives

    On Film4: 29 Apr 4:45PM

  • Film4 Silver Linings Playbook

    Silver Linings Playbook on Film4

    Jennifer Lawrence gives an Oscar-winning performance opposite Bradley Cooper in David O. Russell's superior romantic comedy.

  • Film4 The Pact

    The Pact on Film4

    When Annie's sister disappears while organising their mother's funeral in their childhood home, she investigates as an unwelcome presence in the house begins to be felt

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Mike Leigh announces new film, Peterloo

    Mike Leigh's next project will look at Peterloo - the infamous 1819 massacre by government forces at a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter's Field in Manchester, when 700 working people were inju

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Four Film4-backed films selected In Competition at Cannes 2015

    Four Film4-backed films ¿ Todd Haynes¿ Carol, Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster, Paolo Sorrentino¿s Youth and Justin Kurzel¿s Macbeth ¿ have been invited into official selection at this year¿s Cannes film

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • Splurge guns at the ready! We're off to Fat Sam's Grand Slam Speakeasy at 3.05pm for gangster musical Bugsy Malone. http://t.co/ab2mRq4yy1

  • @bionicmike70 @iainandjane @nickcave It is indeed!

  • "That's life, isn't it? So much less satisfying than fiction." At 11.10pm, John Cusack stars in The Raven. https://t.co/fq6GimzdyM

  • Heads up, folks! If you missed our premiere of The Raven last week, we're repeating it tonight at 11.10pm. https://t.co/NxmH2Xy9V0

  • Next Friday, we're premiering @iainandjane's innovative documentary portrait of @nickcave, 20,000 Days On Earth! http://t.co/mxuenjFYiB

Share