Thursday, June 5, 2014

Filth: Movie Review


A brilliant character study underneath the layers of filthy superficiality.
In “Filth”, Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a Scottish cop who’s determined to solve a murder case. But more important than that, he’s also determined to get promoted to Inspector. And more important than that, there’s lots of women to bed, drugs to imbibe, alcohol to drink and general debauchery to embark on. He has zero concern for the people around him and the laws that govern society. 2013

Directed by: Jon S. Baird

Screenplay by: Jon S. Baird
Based on the novel "Filth" by Irvine Welsh

Starring: James McAvoy

James McAvoy in FILTH, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
I can understand the concern that this is just a movie about a contemptible person and their contemptible actions, but that concern is forgotten when Robertson does one thing but says another and you’re too busy laughing to concern yourself with the social implications. Later the concern is completely eliminated when the film starts suggesting why Bruce is acting the way he is. You see, “Filth” is a character study underneath all the filthy superficiality. However, better than that the filthy superficiality is not as superficial as it may seem, Bruce’s problems lie so deep that there are multiple layers to the film, the character, and his actions, that we need all the layers to fully comprehend what is going on the mind of Bruce Robertson, in his own reality, and in the reality that the rest of us occupy.

James McAvoy and Imogen Poots in FILTH, a
Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
The supporting cast is littered with underrated British actors but the only two able to be noticed outside of McAvoy as the overly loud and attention demanding Bruce Robertson are Jim Broadbent as a “doctor” and Imogen Poots as Amanda Drummond, his female law-enforcement partner. As can likely be inferred, Bruce is racist, sexist, and every other bigoted position for somebody who isn’t himself. Interestingly, Amanda is the only one able to maintain herself and her composure in front of Bruce, and put him in his place. It’s through her where we start seeing what his place actually is.

“Filth” is not getting anywhere near the high regard of “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013), but in half the run-time, it has a more efficient introduction to our protagonist, just as many funny scenes, and significantly more insight into the main character. “Filth” is faster, arguably flashier as a lot of scenes go by very quickly, and arguably a bit less filth. The rise and fall of Bruce Robertson can be quite tragic, especially for those of us who understood what all of the previous debauchery was about. It’s probably cryptic for those who appreciated the more excessive superficiality of more grounded-films.

“Filth” is very Scottish in its presentation. Bruce Robertson is very proud of that fact. It may be hard to take his word at face value, but it’s these roots that give the film a stronger sense of purpose.
Best of 2014

Similar Titles:

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) - Drugs, sex and alcohol disguises the brilliant character work of the wolf.

Seven Psychopaths (2012) - Finding the middle ground between comedy, violence and psychopaths.

Dom Hemingway (2013) - Jude Law carries a structurally-problematic, comedic crime film about the vulgar and crass Dom Hemingway.