CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

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: James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent
  • 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 Johnny English Reborn

    Johnny English Reborn

    Rowan Atkinson returns as the inept secret agent, this time taking on international assassins

  • Film4 Maps To The Stars

    Maps To The Stars

    Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Mia Wasikowska star in David Cronenberg's Hollywood caricature.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • "I think that makes you the youngest person in the entire country." Up next at 11.40pm, gory horror sequel 28 Weeks Later.

  • Later this week, we're screening two classic David Fincher films, alongside a Gone Girl interview special: http://t.co/tB3RFlPi0t

  • "Mama always said dying was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn't." At 9pm, Tom Hanks stars in Oscar-winning epic drama Forrest Gump.

  • Trekkies! We've come a long way since The Motion Picture. Tomorrow night our Trek adventure comes to a close with Star Trek: First Contact.

  • RT @WightBlood: #Horror on free UK TV tonight. A sequel that's better than the first film?? I think so. 28 Weeks Later on @Film4 at 2340

Share