Film Review - Filth with James McAvoy

FILTH is a novel by Irvine Welsh, he of Trainspotting legend, and it's also a film by Jon Baird and starring Scotch Heartthrob James McAvoy. It's also very good indeed.

But we'll get to the praise in a moment. First, what's the film about?

It's about a Scottish copper called Bruce (McAvoy) who is a manipulative, drunk, coked up, whore mongering, womanising, sociopathic scumbag, and his attempts to get a promotion within the Lothian police force. Unfortunately there are several other "polis" after the job as well, namely a rookie played by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), a woman played by Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later), a gruff old plod and a daft old sod.

Bruce wants this promotion very badly, and he sets up a series of "games" (schemes and plots) to ruthlessly but stealthily scupper his opponent's chances while simultaneously bolstering his own. He writes homophobic graffiti about one man on the toilet walls, then leads a determined and very public one man charge to find the culprit. 

Throughout the film we're presented with the goings on of horrible bastard Bruce, but also a continued monologue by his porcelain wife Carole, who is sexing herself up in preparation to celebrate Bruce's rising up the ranks and also justifying Bruce's actions to the audience. It's an odd device but it works here perfectly because without Carole offering her feelings of love for Bruce, you'd hate the prick. 

He's racist, misogynist, homophobic, sectarian, xenophobic, alcoholic and a bunch of other aggressively unpleasant things. He forces an underage (15 year old) girl to suck him off and then has a go at her for being shit at it. He harasses the wife of a "friend" over the phone, pretending to be Manc comedian and papier mache head efficianado Frank Sidebottom, purely because he can and constantly the bullies the man himself (played by Eddie Marsan from The World's End) to make himself feel better.

It's a deeply bleak and degenerate movie which allows you to sympathize with Bruce while never condoning anything he does. He's a malevolent scumbag, obviously, but there's a number of reasons for it. 

McAvoy is bloody great as Bruce, managing to play him as a horrendous deviant but never going so far as lose his humanity. The story ebbs and flows very nicely, despite the distorted narrative, and it speeds along at a right old pace without ever letting you get too comfortable with one reality. 

The script, also by Jon Baird, is sparkling with wit and grime and he spreads his good lines out very fairly. No character is left with the chaff of explaining the scene or introducing people. The division of labour is very even, which is a hard thing to do.

Performance nods should also go to John Sessions as Bruce's boss Bob Toal, who is just contemptible enough for you see why Bruce hates him so much, and also Jim Broadbent as Bruce's doctor slash inner voice, doing a baffling South African type accent and making every scene he's in feel very disorienting and psychadelic.

All in all Filth is exactly that. Filthy. It made me feel unclean for about half an hour afterwards.

4 out of 5

Words by Gazz Wood

Gazz Wood is a writer from The Northern Film School at Leeds Met University. As well as writing for Wireless he can also be heard on the monthly podcast Possibly of Interest with TV Producer Howard Cohen and special guests from the world of British TV and Cinema, plus his own weekly show Gazz Wood Has A Podcast. He can also be followed on Twitter @GazzPH90

In Cinemas 4th October