“An entertaining punch in the face”; so says James McAvoy of new Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth. While I cannot speak for McAvoy’s pugilistic exploits/masochism, I can confirm that his latest film delivers a real shock to the system. Detective Sergeant Robertson (McAvoy) is a despicable piece of work; saddled with the case of a murdered tourist and obsessed with securing a promotion, Robertson engages in so called ‘games’ to demean and betray his colleagues, thus improving his prospects for the position of Detective Inspector. His delusions of grandeur and moral corruption intensify over time, making his reliability as a narrator questionable. No one around him, save the fiery Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots), makes any effort to disapprove of his blatant alcoholism, not to mention coke addiction or sexual perversions.
McAvoy as Robertson will intrigue and disgust you, seizing your attention and gripping it in his sleazy, nicotine-stained fingers. His performance in Filth consolidates McAvoy as a great actor, not just a good one; the habitual nature of Robertson’s debauchery is insurmountable and one cannot help but sympathise as he spirals towards the nadir of human existence. The supporting cast are top notch too. Eddie Marsan plays against type as Robertson’s naive, tormented best friend and gets plenty of laughs while Jim Broadbent is outstanding as an increasingly maniacal and wide eyed ‘head doctor’; “Bigger problems? BIGGER PILLS, YEEEEEEES?”
Vibrant and colourful as it is morally revolting, Jon S. Baird’s Filth violates the senses. Baird has come a long way; just seven years ago he was a ‘technical assistant’ on Green Street Hooligans (if you like that film…good for you!). Clint Mansell’s (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) haunting original score plus foot-thumping covers of classics like Creep and, ahem!, Winter Wonderland work beautifully in conjunction with the visual bazaar that is Filth.
Author Irvine Welsh claims he prefers Baird’s creation to the book (which you are recommended to read also – it contains some remarkably inventive narrative tools and is even more twisted than the film) and has even suggested that Filth is a rival to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. While that may be a stretch, Filth is an emotionally challenging, hilarious and exceptionally memorable motion picture. Sadly though, nobody says “Smaaaaack!”