Filth: a cohesive drug fuelled merry-go-round

James-McAvoy-in-Filth-2013-Movie-ImageTHERE’S something unnerving about paying to watch an Irvine Welsh adaptation these days – it could go one of two. Danny Boyle’s outstanding Trainspotting or Rob Hayden’s ‘didn’t quite cut it’ Ecstasy. Filth though, happily sits somewhere between Boyle and the mid-ground, not least due to its unrelenting cast. Jim Broadbent and Eddie Marsan are particular stand outs as Robertson’s doctor and best friend respectively, but it is McAvoy who deserves the lion’s share of the praise for how this film has turned out.

His turn as Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is one of his finest if only because there are no holds barred. He’s a dirty, arrogant, selfish and deeply confused character with a wild drug addiction and blatant disregard for the law he seemingly upholds, pretty much opening the film forcing an underage girl into fellatio, swearing at a child and suffocating a suspect and himself. The phrase “turning off the gas” will never mean quite the same to you after this.

But he’s not a character you love to hate, and it’s something director Jon Baird and McAvoy clearly went the extra mile to portray, because in the end, the only thing you feel for Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is a fairly detached feeling of sadness. This is partly due to how well the story of Bruce’s downfall is told through exquisite fast paced rants at colleagues wives having just bedded them and outspoken racist slurs on a cramped aeroplane through to moments of rare silence and reflection on Bruce’s part. It’s here you can see that McAvoy has turned his acting chops up to eleven and it’s here where you get to the nitty gritty of what is actually going on inside this extremely obtuse characters head.

The story is buoyed on by the prospect of a murder case, although this is by no means the main plotline of the film. Robertson takes us through the murky world of Edinburgh policing as he vies with his colleagues for a promotion in an attempt to impress his elusive wife and daughter. He does this by ‘playing the game’, some of the only times we see McAvoy’s character truly focused within the film, outwitting and embarrassing others in line for the job at whatever cost.

As plots go though, this is definitely more a read between the lines than say Trainspotting was at least, and at times it can feel a bit like a merry-go-round on acid. Trying to make sense of all the animal heads and in your face jump cuts means you do have to pay attention, but in the end it’s worth it and it deepens your understanding of the character just enough that you might just sympathise.

Filth does away with any Hollywood or Hugh Grant humour British films seem chock full of today and finds amusement in the nasty. Sex, drugs and a trip to Hamburg provide the core of Welsh’s humour translated on the screen and even the surprising twist I wasn’t expecting… go as far as to add to it. To compare it or put it any more clearly would really be a spoiler.

The final feather in Filth’s cap is the soundtrack. It was something I only looked out for because I knew I would review it, but it’s got a good one. In all, the film has many poignant moments, many genuinely funny moments and many moments which make you realise why it’s earned its 18 certificate. It’s not one for the sensitive souls, but if you love a good character driven story of the Trainspotting ilk, and you’re not too easily offended then this is definitely the film for you.