Filth (18)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/10/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

Raucously entertaining, darkly comic drama with lively, energetic direction, a superbly written, gloriously sleazy script, a terrific support cast and a powerful central performance from James McAvoy.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jon S Baird and adapted (by Baird) from the cult novel by Irvine Welsh, Filth stars James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson, a crooked, drug-addicted, sexist, racist and homophobic Edinburgh cop who believes he has a strong chance of promotion if he can keep on the right side of his boss (John Sessions). In order to further boost his chances, Bruce sets out to systematically undermine all his colleagues – he patronises Amanda (Imogen Poots), spreads homosexual rumours about Peter (Emun Elliott), has an affair with Gus' (Gary Lewis) wife (Kate Dickie), gets Ray (Jamie Bell) hooked on cocaine and takes strait-laced Bladesey (Eddie Marsan) on a sex-and-drugs holiday to Hamburg.

The Good
Often associated with clean-cut, good guy roles (and, of course, Mr Tumnus), James McAvoy gleefully embraces the chance to show a darker side and throws himself headlong into the part of Bruce, who somehow still manages to retain our sympathy, despite the litany of despicable acts he commits onscreen. All of these are further underscored with witty, ever-present narration and the occasional fourth-wall-breaking wink to the camera, both of which create complicity with the audience.

Baird has also assembled a terrific supporting cast: Sessions is particularly funny as Bruce's blustering, oblivious boss, while Marsan is wonderful as Bladesey (his dancing scenes in Hamburg are riotously funny) and there's strong work from Shirley Henderson (as Bladesey's wife, who keeps getting obscene phonecalls from Bruce), Jim Broadbent (as a deranged psychiatrist in Bruce's fantasy sequences) and Jamie Bell as Ray, who rather naively views Bruce as a mentor figure.

The Great
The script is gloriously sleazy throughout and Baird directs with a manic energy that perfectly illustrates Bruce's drug-fuelled behaviour, heightened by Mark Eckersley's whip-smart editing and Matthew Jensen's garish, hallucinatory cinematography – the result of this breakneck pace is that you're constantly bracing yourself for the inevitable crash, which creates an extremely tense atmosphere even as you're enjoying the ride. In addition, the film is packed with bizarre, off-the-wall touches (such as the various animal masks that crop up) that add to the unsettling nature of the film.

Worth seeing?
Filth is an enjoyable, darkly funny drama that's also surprisingly moving, thanks to a superbly written script, an assured directorial tone and a powerhouse of a central performance from James McAvoy. Highly recommended, though you may need a shower afterwards.

Film Trailer

Filth (18)
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Content updated: 18/04/2019 15:59

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