“I’m not well”.
In Filth, the chameleonic and electrifying James McAvoy delivers the performance of a lifetime, as he literally throws every single inch of his mind, body and soul down the rabbit hole of depravity and wickedness. His character, Scottish police sergeant Bruce Robertson, is a decaying and cretinous excuse for a human being, but you won’t be able to keep your eyes off him either.
Vying desperately and by any means necessary for a new promotion at work, Robertson impudently and confidently circumvents just about every law that he is supposed to uphold. His everyday language is colourfully laden with almost every sexist and bigoted remark imaginable. He indulges in a daily regime of extreme and dangerous sexual acts, makes obscene phone calls to his best friend’s wife, and snorts more cocaine than Tony Montana. Yet oddly enough, no matter how cruel and heinous Robertson becomes, McAvoy’s fearless and masterful performance makes it almost impossible not to root for him.
Based on Irvine Welsh’s ‘unfilmable’ novel (he also wrote Trainspotting), Director Jon S. Baird brings a frenetic energy and a tremendous sense of shameless fun to the proceedings. The dark and confronting script, is also raucously funny and entertaining as well. While the film is obviously aimed to unsettle and shock many audiences in its wake, it also does a relatively effective job of humanizing McAvoy in spite of his horrible exploits. You’re going to feel dirty through the process, but the filmmakers tease just enough humanity that you may feel a little empathy towards this broken and debauched character by the end too.
The film is also aided by a fantastic group of supporting artists, including Jaime Bell (Billy Elliot), Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter), Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later) and Eddie Marsan (The World’s End), whose dance break in the second act just about steals the show.
There’s no hiding it – this is going to offend and upset people and therefore my recommendation is limited. This is gritty, sleazy and powerful British filmmaking that doesn’t quite reach the levels of controversy or artistry that Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting does, but it deserves a place in that conversation at the very least.