Filth * * * *

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Director: Jon S. Baird.
Screenplay: Jon S. Baird.
Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, John Sessions, Gary Lewis, Brian McCardie, Emun Elliott, Martin Compston, Shirley Henderson, Kate Dickie, Shauna Macdonald, Iain De Caestecker, Ron Donachie, Natasha O’Keeffe, Jonathan Watson, David Soul.

As the year draws to a close, so does the (unrelated) British trilogy of James McAvoy leading roles. He began with the disappointingly generic “Welcome To The Punch” before moving on to the teasingly elaborate “Trance” before finally heading back to his native Scotland to tackle “Filth” – the ‘unfilmable’ novel by cult writer Irvine Welsh. Since “Trainspotting” in 1996, Welsh’s material hasn’t really been given an adaptation deserving of his talents, but here, director Jon S. Baird delves (groin first) into Welsh’s unrelenting prose and delivers a sharp, sordid and deeply debauched, delight of a film.

Roaming the Edinburgh streets is Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy). He’s not your average cop, though, but one that’s as corrupt as they come. After a marriage break-up, he’s become a hard-drinker with an out of control cocaine habit, leaving him mentally unstable. All of which are getting in the way of his police work and his ambition for promotion to Detective Inspector.

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In bringing a very difficult novel to the screen, Baird deserves the utmost credit; he captures the surreal and uncompromising, gallows humour of Welsh’s work – and characters – while avoiding the inevitable pitfalls that comparisons with “Trainspotting” might bring.

Some omissions from the book have be made, namely the talking tapeworm which was a prominent feature. This time it manifests through Robertson’s psyche in the shape of crazed Australian psychiatrist Jim Broadbent. This is probably the only part of the movie that isn’t entirely successful but it’s a good attempt to incorporate it anyway.

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Anyone familiar with the work of playwright and author, Dennis Potter (“The Singing Detective“, “Lipstick on Your Collar“), will rejoice in the hallucinatory moments provided here, and in particular, a bizarre song and dance number by none other than David Soul from 70’s television show “Starksy and Hutch“, while others will recall Abel Ferrara’s brutal and unrelenting “Bad Lieutenant“.

As for the performances, everyone involved is absolutely superb; Brian McCardie is a grizzling treat while John Sessions, Gary Lewis and Jamie Bell all bring wonderful comic timing to their roles. Eddie Marsan also continues his great run of character acting in a tragic turn as Bladesey – Robertson’s only true friend – and a friend whom the salacious Detective has no qualms about harassing his wife, Bunty (played excellently by the kooky and vastly underrated Shirley Henderson) with prank, sexual phone calls.

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Behind all the madness and misanthropy, though, is a fully committed McAvoy who commands the screen entirely. There really are no depths to which his racist, homophobic and sociopathic Bruce Robertson won’t stoop. With a raging labido and spiralling cocaine and alcohol habit, he elicits oral sex from an underage girl, has sexual relations with his colleagues’ wives and indulges in regular, furious, masturbation, meanwhile, double-crossing and manipulating everyone in his path.

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Complete with pallid complexion, bulging blood-shot eyes and scraggly ginger facial hair, this truly abhorrent human being is detestable in both manner and appearance (according to the actor himself, he was actually hungover most days on the set to fully capture the authenticity). Superlatives have been lavished McAvoy’s way for fearlessly tackling this very challenging role, and rightfully so. Despite, his objectionable and distasteful characteristics, he (very surprisingly) manages to bring a humanity to the role that’s not without saddening moments of fragility and extreme pathos. For anyone that might not be convinced by McAvoy’s talents, this is the role to silence his critics. He’s simply outstanding. The Academy will, more than likely, overlook his commitment here (as they did with Michael Fassbender in “Shame“) but that won’t stop his performance remaining one of the very best of the year. He really is that good.

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Lewd, crude and deliriously dark and humorous. Those familiar with Irvine Welsh’s razor sharp prose will take great delight here, while others should be warmed that the title of the movie says it all really.

Mark Walker

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76 Responses to “Filth * * * *”

  1. Superb stuff Mark, I was anticipating this review! I was wondering whether you’d do it in your Scottish lilt once again ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m hoping to check this out in the near future, I’m a fan of McAvoy and this sounds like one of his best performances.

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    • Cheers Chris! I was considering doing it in my Scottish tongue but thought I’d just do it in English first. I’ll do a Scottish one further down the line so I can link back to this for those that struggle to understand.

      If you’re a McAvoy fan, then you’ll enjoy him here. It’s without a doubt his best (and bravest) work so far. I had a lot of fun with this one.

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  2. Would definitely like to check this out, if not purely for McAvoy’s performance. I like him. Very good review Mark!

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    • If you can handle shocking and uncompromising humour then I suggest you do check this out, Zoe. It’s dark but it’s a lot of fun. McAvoy is, simply, outstanding. He’s worth the price alone. Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • I can deal with dark humour. I prefer that to silly slapstick stuff at any rate. Well, you have finally convinced me to check it out. The poster certainly caught my attention a few weeks back, so I was wondering what the hell it would be all about. At least now I know what to expect! ๐Ÿ˜€

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      • Expect the dark and depraved and you’ll do just fine. The trailer should shed a bit more light on what to expect.

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      • Will be sure to check it out, thanks!

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      • Ha! I finally watched this over the weekend, by the way! McAvoy is just amazing!

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      • So you finally got around to it then? Nice one. McAvoy was outstanding for sure. His performance was very like DiCaprio’s in Wolf of Wall Street. I thought DiCaprio was superb in that but McAvoy was just as good in Filth. In fact, McAvoy was my performance of the year but unfortunately, it was never going to get any awards.

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      • I did and I thoroughly enjoyed it, what a trip! For sure, it was really one hell of a performance, and definitely right up there. Pity that it was not acknowledged, it was superb!

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  3. I am DYING to see this. I was supposed to go on Sunday but then I was too hungover (which is fitting I think considering the subject matter). Will hopefully fit it in tomorrow night, my husband’s man-flu permitting.

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  4. Good stuff Mucker!

    Hey – I have my assignment for your blogathon watched and an idea cooked up for my writing. I’m sending this to you, right? To post on your new site?

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  5. I wonder when this will come here? I want to see this. Thanks for the heads up, Mark.

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    • I’m not sure when you guys will get it, Michael. I hope you do, though. It’s a great little film and an outstanding display from McAvoy. He reminded me a lot of a more comical version of Harvey Keitel from Bad Lieutenant. Not without his dramatic chops either.

      It’s pretty well received over here, so I hope that stands for something when it comes to a release over your way.

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  6. Great review as always my friend. Unfortunately this is one that doesn’t sound up my alley. I tend to be annoyed by the lewd and crude material even when it isn’t being glorified (which it certainly isn’t in Filth). That said, it sounds like McAvoy gives 110% to the role.

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    • To each their own, bro. I understand. One thing is for sure, though. McAvoy is exceptional. Performance of the year!

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      • You know it sounds like he’s an underappreciated actor especially on this side of the pond. I’ve often heard good things about him yet over here we don’t see that much of his body of work.

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      • That’s a real shame. I think he’s trying to break into things over your way a bit more and get his name and face out there. He has a few critics here as well, I think. I’m certainly not one of them, though, and this is absolute proof that this guy can act, man. Brave and hilarious work from him in Filth.

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  7. Absolutely outstanding write-up Mark! I’m dying to see this flick! McAvoy is one of my favs and it seems like he gives it his all here. Plus, love the book :).

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    • Thanks Joseph! If you’ve read the book then you’ll know just how difficult it is to adapt. They’ve a great job here. Not as good as Trainspotting but then, that’s a hard film to top.

      Being a McAvoy fan, you’ll love him in this. I’ve always been a fan of his too but I like him even more after seeing him here. I’d give the guy the Oscar as it stands right now but, unfortunately, he’ll not get as much as a nomination.

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  8. I am up for it. McAvoy is tops in my book and your review is splendid, Mark.

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    • Thanks Cindy! McAvoy has never been better and you’re unlikely to find a more depraved treat all year. I loved it.

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      • Depravity on film is sometimes just the punch I need to pull me out of my automaton existence. Last good one I saw was ‘Bullhead’.

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      • Indeed! Sometimes you need a jolt out of your comfort zone and this should do nicely. Bullhead is one I haven’t seen but it’s already on my list.

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      • I guarantee you will love BH. It’s foreign, it’s cold and raw, and the lead male in a complex, awesome role.

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      • I’m looking forward to it Cindy. I did have a copy once but I couldn’t get the subtitles to work on my tv. The day will happen again, though. Thanks for the reminder. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • I watched ‘Stardust’ last night finally and am ready to submit the post to your blogathon but I can’t remember what you two wanted–short and sweet and an evaluation of DeNiro in the role? I can’t believe I have to write a negative review on a personal hero..:( I would much rather share why he’s outstanding in countless other roles. I am curious what is your favorite role he stars in? I wonder if it’s the same as mine….

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      • I had to watch Rocky & Bullwinkle as it was one if the few that I hadn’t seen yet. It was tough going and left me with not a lot to say about DeNiro as he was hardly in it. Basically we’re looking for a review of the movie and how DeNiro works/doesn’t work in it. Just be honest. If you didn’t like the film or even him in it, then just say so.

        I have many favourites from him but we’ll leave that for another time. That’s the makings of another project we’d like to get people involved in as well.

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  9. Gotta top my hat to you Mark, this was great stuff. I watched Filth the other night; review to follow.

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  10. Hi Mark, superb review as always. Y’know we both love McAvoy and he’s an outstanding actor, but I’m afraid this one is a skip for me. No hard feelings ok? ๐Ÿ˜€

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  11. Popcorn Nights Says:

    Sounds decent Mark, I will definitely be checking it out, especially given what you say about McAvoy. I was trying to decide between this and Blue Jasmine at the cinema on Saturday night. I think the missus wants to see the latter but I will try and catch this at some point. Shame Welsh hasn’t had a decent adaptation in so long – I saw The Acid House and remember liking a couple of parts of it but this sounds much better.

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    • Blue Jasmine is another one on my list Stu. I’m hearing great things about that.

      I loved Filth. It has some pacing issues that I forgot to mention in my review but I stand by McAvoy. Superb stuff.

      I seen The Acid House myself, and you’re right, it did have good moments but overall it didn’t quite work. Loved the segment about the guy that turns into a fly, though and sees his patents at it, over the fireplace. Stap-on and everything LOL. Typical Irvine Welsh.

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  12. Thomas Priday Says:

    I saw this film very recently, and I have to agree with your analysis.

    I think McAvoy does a great job of portraying the character, though I don’t think the writers really did.

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    • Cheers Thomas. I thought the writer’s did a decent job, it was a very difficult book to adapt. I had no idea how they were going to do and have to say, I was impressed with the results.

      Absolutely no doubt about McAvoy, though. He was incredible.

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  13. Excellent write-up, Mark! Been looking forward to this one ever since I saw the trailer. I’m a big fan of McAvoy, and I’m sure his biggest fan Tyson Carter will love this movie like you did.

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  14. I adore McAvoy ever since I saw, loved and let Trance haunt my dreams. I can easily see how he could give such a powerful performance and I will be softly crying at awards season when he’s snubbed โ€“ I trust you on that one. Definitely seeing this as soon as I can โ€“ thanks for sharing, Mark!

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    • I thought he was great in trance too Elina, but this is an even more powerful show from him. He will be snubbed come awards time, though. Such a shame but he might manage a Bafta or something.

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  15. Good review. ๐Ÿ™‚ Had no intention of seeing this but it does sound intriguing…

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    • Many thanks! I know the material may put some people off but it’s done with such wit and playfulness that it shouldn’t be ignored. Nor should James McAvoy. Great, great performance.

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  16. So want to see this movie! Wonder when it’ll release on home video. Welcome to the Punch was moderately enjoyable and Trance was a splendid movie from Boyle. I suppose Filth comes off as much much better than those two.

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    • I’ve no idea when it’ll receive a home release but it’s definitely worth it. It will offend some people but, personally, I loved it. All the trilogy of films that McAvoy released this year, I enjoyed this one the most. Welcome to Punch was very disappointing but Trance was great. As for McAvoy himself, he’s absolutely outstanding.

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      • McAvoy’s a very dynamic actor from what I’ve seen so far. From Narnia to Trance. And Filth seems to be just the movie I need right now.

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      • Totally agree, man. I think McAvoy has a fine range of abilities. In Filth, he showcases all of them. He shows a vast range of emotions throughout. Being a fan, you should enjoy his work here. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  17. Cracking review Mark and I could’nt agree more, McAvoy turns out what has to be one of the finest performances of the year. Well done chap.

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  18. Superb review! Glad you liked it.

    ilth isnโ€™t an easy watch. I couldnโ€™t shake it off me for a few hours on initial viewing. Featuring the best male performance this year from James McAvoy. I can’t get over how good McAvoy is here. Bruce isnโ€™t an easy character to play and McAvoy beautifully captures his features, playing someone whom is mentally unstable, fragile and deeply troubled.

    I look forward to his upcoming performances.

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    • Thanks a lot. Glad to hear you enjoyed it too and it’s also great to hear that someone else thinks that this is the performance of the year so far. I would love for McAvoy to receive some awards attention for this one. He certainly deserves it. He was outstanding.

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  19. ray brayne Says:

    Disappointed. At first I thought I was in for another “Train” ride but it became too disjointed. Needed a better separation of fantasy/reality. I blame Baird for this. He’s no Danny Boyle. I think it does need a watch though for Jim McAvoy. True greatness. The only comparison I can think of is Leonardo in “Wolf of Wall Street” and he’s sure to win an Oscar for that. I don’t know the Oscar rules and since this hasn’t opened in the States yet, McAvoy may be eligible next year. Tough, tough opening for the U.S. what with all the genitalia and all. May need trimming or an NC-17.
    “Same rules Apply”. Had to think about that for awhile. But nice catch phrase for all life’s weirdness!

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    • I really liked it, Ray. I do agree that it was disjointed and my biggest issue was the Broadbent character. Being a fan of the book, I always wondered how they would adapt it. The tapeworm that talks throughout the novel is nearly impossible to translate to screen. I admire Baird’s attempt but it wasn’t entirely successful.

      It’s no Trainspotting but a damn good attempt at recreating that debauched madness and that’s thanks to McAvoy. He was OUTSTANDING and certainly Oscar worthy. Good point about its release date in the US. Maybe that has went against McAvoy but there’s no doubt that he’s as good as, if not better that DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall St. It’s a tough call and I can see DiCaprio taking the Oscar too (although I haven’t seen McConaghey in Dallas Buyers yet). I wouldn’t argue if DiCaprio did take it – he’s excellent – but McAvoy must feel himself unjustly ignored here.

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