8.5Overall Score
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When I first saw the trailer for Filth last year I got very excited about it. I love movies about corrupt cops, especially when they’re done well and the trailer promised a nice cinematography, as well. I finally got to watch it yesterday, and Filth didn’t disappoint.

Filth follows the life of Edinburgh detective Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), who at first appears to be a bratty, violent and corrupt guy. He relishes in his violence, in the power he has as a cop. He drinks, snorts and frequents prostitutes, has sex with his colleague’s wife, bullies a wealthy but soft guy and is just all-round awful. His life revolves around the prospect of a promotion, but soon enough, it becomes clear that Bruce is not at all suited for the position. It is revealed that the wife and child he says are waiting at home left him some time ago although he tells his colleagues otherwise. Moreover, it becomes increasingly clear Bruce is suffering from serious mental illness, and hallucinations slowly start to take hold of his life.

The Good

Acting Performances

First of all, all credit must be given to James McAvoy. He’s developing into a multifaceted actor, and he performed brilliantly in Filth, giving the full 100% the character of Bruce Robertson needed; McAvoy was truly convincing in every nasty aspect of him. His BAFTA for Best Actor for this movie was well-deserved.

It must be said that although they were mostly outshone by McAvoy, the rest of the cast was great as well. Eddie Marsan was terrific as the naive Bladesey and Shirley Henderson was crazy fun as his gold digger wife, Bunty. Jamie Bell was just perfect as self-conscious and daft druggie Ray Lennox.

The Downward Spiral of Evil

Another major pro of this movie was the way Bruce’s evil was portrayed. At first, Bruce reveled in his evil, he was even giddy about it (e.g. the copy machine enlargement, which admittedly was really funny). The movie soon becomes a lot darker as Bruce spirals downwards and becomes nastier and nastier. He is so desperate to get a promotion he meddles and manipulates and deceives – he proves to be incredibly cunning and devious, and sadistic, too.

I’m unsure how this road to insanity was portrayed in Irvine Welsh’s original book as I haven’t read it, but in my opinion, director and screenwriter Jon S. Baird did a great job of displaying this kind of development towards insanity and evil on screen. At a certain point I couldn’t help but only feel pity and sympathy for Bruce, and that’s no small feat considering his nastiness.


source: Lionsgate

Celebration of Magic Realism

I also thoroughly appreciated the absurdism, or magic realism, of the movie.  All characters are deliciously over the top and the hallucinations where Robertson saw his psychiatrist were all sorts of crazy, as well as the intermezzos featuring Robertson’s mysterious wife, which did really pique my curiosity.

While I was annoyed with Oblivion recently because it so blatantly ripped off other science fiction films, I can’t help but appreciate the way Jon S. Baird celebrated two other filmmakers in his movie. He didn’t rip anything off, it was pure celebration.

The first is Terry Gilliam: the scenes with the psychiatrist were reminiscent of Brazil (not just because of Jim Broadbent) for its dreamlike quality and style, and I recognized more references to Terry Gilliam’s work throughout Filth. It was subtly and nicely done.

The second, Stanley Kubrick, was celebrated less subtly  if you consider the 2001: A Space Oddysey poster in the Chief’s office was even pointed out explicitly. Furthermore, one of the scenes with Bruce’s wife clearly referenced Eyes Wide Shut. It felt like Bruce’s character was approached like a modern-day Alex of A Clockwork Orange: a deeply evil droog, but you end up sympathizing with him anyway.

Finally, the cinematography – Matthew Jensen did a great job for Filth. Many scenes were shot mostly in close-up, which added to the tone and intensity of the story and Bruce’s development.

On to the Bad…