Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a detective sergeant who’s about as PC as a priest in a porn shop. As Bruce ticks his way down the seven deadly sins list, it’s clear he’s not only struggling with where to get his next hedonistic hit, but also with the demons picking at his fraying mental health.
Anyone who’s read Irvine Welsh’s devilishly grubby novel Filth, may well have expected the film adaptation to require subtitles. Even the book could have done with a translator as Welsh unapologetically spat out gruff colloquialisms and a thick Scottish dialect across his famed book. But with profitability in mind (after all, raising the funds to see this project through to completion was touch and go – James McAvoy even took a paycut to finish the film), the movie could have run the risk of box office suicide if it alienated audiences outside of Blantyre. Americans ‘kene’ even understand Cheryl Cole and you’re never going to pay for McAvoy’s fee like that.
You’d happily fish Bruce out of the puddle of his own vomit, even after he shagged your sister and slapped your mum on the ass…
Another decision, no doubt with profits in mind, was the doing away of a certain beastiality scene featured in the book – either that or Miss Piggy was too busy. People don’t half love animals and the last thing you want is Peta throwing red paint at you at the premiere.
Adapting the warped, inebriated mind of Bruce from the surreal characterisations of the book was always going to be a challenge if they were to avoid coming across like the Mighty Boosh on acid. The first draft of the film considerably cut some of the pesky tapeworm’s appearances as well as the Dr. Seuss-alike doctor (Jim Broadbent) with a huge baked potato for a head for a less eccentric ride. Yet the surrealism, glorious vulgarity and the love/hate letter to The Highlands remain intact as this adaptation clings respectfully to the dark, comedic original.
Imogen Poots plays a mean game of stare
Filth could easily have been a jerky tale of two halves. Part one about a heroic hot-head trying to woo back his wife and kid after a few whiskeys, with part two shifting sharply to reveal a despicable addict trying to hump his mate’s wife using cocaine for confetti. Yet somehow, with well-spun pace the film gently sails into the rock of our anti-hero’s bottom sparing us the whiplash.
The real skill here is pulling off a repulsive character who you actually feel compassion for. You’d happily fish Bruce out of the puddle of his own vomit, even after he shagged your sister and slapped your mum on the ass. The cocktail of excellent direction (Jon S. Baird) and expert performance make P.C Bruce someone who you want to have a pint with, but also want to invite over for a shepherd’s pie and a cuddle to try and save him from self-destruction. Now that takes skill that James McAvoy, who Welsh claims provides a performance ‘better than De Nero in Taxi Driver’, delivers.
It feels like a good old-fashioned, no frills Brit-flick, something we’ve missed after a summer of men in tights and titanium. Dark, funny, filthy and ferocious Filth will leave you needing a stiff whiskey ‘anne’ good lie down.
Released: 4th Oct 2013
Director: Jon S. Baird