Auto-erotic-asphyxiation, waves of whisky, mounds of cocaine; Filth does what it says on the tin. James McAvoy plays Bruce Robertson, a lecherous Scottish detective tasked with finding a gang of murderers who unceremoniously stomped an unsuspecting passer-by to death. Unfortunately, he's handicapped by psychosis, sex addiction and sabotaging his colleagues to ensure that he's the next in line for a promotion that will put him back in the good books with his wife Carole (Shauna Macdonald).
Filth takes pleasure relishing in the hedonistic behaviour of the protagonist and the weird mutations of his perspective. It is an alienating viewing experience. In some moments the grimy cold and grey Scottish streets feel like you're in for a U.K answer to Bad Lieutenant (and you sort of are) but it's when you get into the ethereal perspective of Bruce's wife Carole (MacDonald) interacting with the audience or experiencing the effects of whatever cocktail of mind altering substances Bruce (and friends) has consumed you're rocked into delirium. The haze of drugs, sex and back-stabbing does take its toll. Other than Eddie Marsan's Bladesy, who Bruce (McAvoy) continually torments, on the strong female characters like Imogen Poots’ Anna, there's really nothing likeable in any of his colleagues or regular folks that he encounters. You're forced into this faux elitist perspective where everyone's mentally, and what's more important to Bruce, sexually inferior. This has your moral compass spinning like a record. Writer/director Jon S. Baird’s aesthetic is defined by blood shot eyes, cold sweat and skewed consciousness of submersion into mind altering substances.
Casting McAvoy was a wise choice because the filmmaker knows that despite his disgusting behaviour, you're (for the most part) able to be swayed by McAvoy's likeability. Bruce is a wild pig, stomping through his terrain like a beast that literally and figuratively marks his territory. And yet as the film progresses McAvoy and Baird ask you to find the other poles of Bruce’s character and to empathise with his ‘plight.’ It’s a fine line to tread after the barrage you're forced to endure to that point.
Shirley Henderson's Bunty, best known for Harry Potter's 'Moaning Myrtle,' really wants to let McAvoy's Bruce into her chamber of secrets despite the fact that her husband Bladesy (Marsan)is friends with Bruce. Her squeaky, childlike voice uttering such taboos will permanently affect your perception of her. Jamie Bell’s Ray Lennox uses his boyish insecurity and is suffering from inadequacies, which are revealed during the film, and is caught in the trap of being Bruce’s police protégé. Jim Broadbent is like a circus version of a psychologist as Dr Rossi whose encounters with Bruce feel like mushroom trips.
Writer/director Baird wants you to hypnotically experience Irvin Welsh’s Filth. Unfortunately I felt like the sole sober person at this orgy.
[rating=2] and a Half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.