DIR/WRI: Jon S. Baird • PRO: Mark Amin, Christian Angermayer, Jon S. Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler • DOP: Matthew Jensen • ED: Mark Eckersley • MUSIC: Clint Mansell • DES: Mike Gunn • Cast: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan
It’s as brimming with life and black comedy as it is pints and seminal fluid. A sardonic revolt of masculinity bursting at the seams. A seductive little beast bottling everything defile and humorous in life into one condensed viewing. It’s an adaptation of the notorious novel by cult author Irvine Welsh and adapted for the screen by Jon S. Baird.
Detective sergeant Bruce Roberts (James McAvoy) is a man of the law, an absolute degenerate, a scoundrel, a pervert, a Scotsman and he’s got his sights set out on a big promotion. A very big promotion indeed. He wants to be made detective lieutenant and why couldn’t he? He’s highly ethical and principled, his interests ranging anywhere from police oppression, masonic gatherings, blackmail and autoerotic asphyxiation. As you can tell he’s perfect for the job. So it’s hardly a surprise that he’s quite well respected and trusted. Added to which he’s moving in the right social circles at the masonic lodge. But as promising as his odds for promotion are there’s no level of debauchery too low if it ensures his promotion. The importance of this promotion hinges on Roberts’s aspiration to win back his family who’ve seemingly abandoned him. He sets out on a seditious campaign to further damage the reputations of his meagre competitors and colleagues. It’s on this drunken, drug-fuelled odyssey to blacken colleagues’ reputations that things begin to disintegrate as Roberts struggles to keep his sanity. He medicates himself on a violent concoction of alcohol, cocaine, and coercion. He’s never a far step away from being a “cocaine socialist.”
McAvoy is both riveting and detestable, a formidable antihero reminiscent of Malcom MacDowell’s “Alex” from A Clockwork Orange. It’s McAvoy who’s the binding ingredient, he’s the cement holding the film together, at its heart Filth is a tragic character piece about the mental health of man abandoned by his family. McAvoy gives a credible sense of empathy to a truly detestable character, which allows the audience feel sympathetic toward him. Behind all his apparent hatred, his drunkenness, his shameless exhibitionism is a man who is hopelessly afraid.
There’s a tremendous supporting cast – Jamie Bell is exquisite as Ray Lennox the cock-eyed cokehead copper who’s Roberts’ partner in work/crime. Jim Broadbent as Dr. Rossi, Roberts’ crazed psychologist – albeit Broadbent’s performance is something of an extended cameo, but his contribution gives a certain memorable sense of flamboyancy.
The film is the definition of cinematic, with the potent marriage of cinematography and art direction really tearing straight into the heart of the story. There’s a constant sense of pace and movement and when the camera is still there’s a tremendous sense of unease. This is all balanced out with the copious dosages of foul humour. Filth is a film as self-reflective on itself and the history of cinema as it is reflective. But it wears its references on its sleeve with a few humble Kubrickian homages, which are pretty much an essential nowadays. Clint Mansell’s score was somewhat underwhelming being one of the less memorable attributes of the film given his usual lust for melody.
It’s abundantly clear that this is thoroughbred filmmaking, the lineage of a craftsman, the work of a very deft and capable storyteller and I look forward with great interest as to how Jon S. Baird’s career may blossom from here. Overall Filth is filthy, in the best possible sense. Recommended for anyone with a really dark sense of humour, or borderline misogynists or S/M enthusiasts. But anyone with a prudish bone in their body had best avoid this one as your world view will be so offended you won’t be able to breath.
Michael Stephen Lee
18 (See IFCO for details)
Filth is released on 4th October 2013