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: Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Jim Broadbent, James McAvoy, 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

    Endless Love

    Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde star in this romantic drama directed by Shana Feste.

  • Film4

    Northern Soul

    Elliot James Langridge and Josh Whitehouse star in writer-director Elaine Constantine's coming-of-age drama.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • 🎥 https://t.co/9DZSngba39

  • @Jockessq It's all happening!

  • I... I think I'm coming down with something... 🤒

  • RT @Film4Insider: Very excited to unveil our new Film4 Productions brand promo! Take a look... 🎥 https://t.co/dXYiRb7f8R

  • Lunchtime read: the best films of 2016, as picked by @empiremagazine: https://t.co/T7wKMsfh3e https://t.co/BuI3wnvIG5

Share