Running time: 97 min
Directed by: Jon S. Baird
Starring: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots & Iain De Caestecker
A bipolar, bigoted junkie cop manipulates and hallucinates his way through the festive season in a bid to secure promotion and win back his wife and daughter.
If you don’t like films bursting with drug-taking, sex and enough swear words to make your ears bleed, perhaps you should give Filth a miss.
Anyone who has read Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel will appreciate just why it’s taken over well over a decade for this sordid tale of a corrupt cop to make it to the big screen. The cop in question is Detective Sergeant Bruce ‘Robbo’ Robertson (McAvoy) – a racist, bigoted, sexist Scottish policeman whose mental breakdown dictates the pace of the film.
A promotion to Detective Inspector is up for grabs and with a blatant disregard for anyone or anything, Robertson snorts, shags and sneers his way through Jon S Baird’s adaption of Welsh’s masterpiece.
When I first heard that James McAvoy was playing the lead role, I had massive doubts about the casting choice – but I couldn’t have been more wrong. In what is surely a career-defining role, McAvoy is simply stunning. There’s no doubt that Robertson is a morally bankrupt, sex and drug addicted character who plots to bring down not just his colleagues who are also in the running for promotion, but anyone else in his orbit (Same Rules Apply).
And yet with so few redeeming characteristics, it’s solely down to McAvoy’s superb skills that Robertson is so vile yet so charismatic. There’s little doubt that Robertson is in the throes of a mental breakdown, which is exacerbated by his penchant for drink and drugs, with McAvoy’s commanding performance bringing just a tiny bit of humility which is totally missing in the book.
While McAvoy is a revelation, there’s a strong supporting cast including Eddie Marsden as the bumbling and bullied Clifford Blades, and Imogen Poots as Robertson’s female colleague Amanda Drummond – a competitor for promotion and the object of his blatant misogyny.
The tapeworm which lives inside Robertson and which partially narrates the book is manifested on the screen by a weird and wonderful performance by Jim Broadbent as a mad doctor (bizarrely played with an Australian accent). There’s also a wacky cameo from David Soul, and a brief appearance from 80s legend Frank Sidebottom (he of the papier-mache head).
There’s little doubt that a fair amount of the subject matter in the book has been diluted for film, but Filth really is a movie which is not for the faint-hearted or for those with a weak stomach. Like the 1996 smash Trainspotting, Filth is dripping with black humour. You know you shouldn’t laugh, but you just can’t help yourself.
The best thing about Filth is McAvoy , in particular his smug sneering leer directly into the camera after committing terrible acts on his colleagues and the various women he uses for his own sexual kicks. You almost forget the sub-plots of Robertson leading a murder investigation and dealing with the fall-out of his disintegrated marriage. It’s uncomfortable yet compelling viewing – what else would you expect from the mind of Irvine Welsh?