Review james-mcavoy-filth

Published on October 11th, 2013 | by Allan Brown


FILTH Review

Movie Review: FILTH (2013)

Rating: 18

Duration: 97 min

Director: Jon S. Baird

Writers: Jon S. Baird (screenplay), Irvine Welsh (novel)

Cast: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots, Iain De Caestecker, Joanne Froggatt, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent, Shirley henderson, Kate Dickie

Plot: Bruce Robsertson is a bipolar, foul mouthed, villainous, sex fiend who when not snorting a cloud of narcotics up is nose, is bullying his way up the chain of command in a bid to secure a promotion in his chosen career, a detective for Edinburgh’s Lothian & Borders Police constabulary.


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Scottish Writer/Director Jon S. Barid explores Irvine Welsh’s depraved vision in an adaptation of his 1997 novel, Filth. Baird astutely embraces all the novels appal and vices, throwing them up on screen with shameless delight and all for the audiences viewing displeasure. But after welsh’s two previously disappointing adaptations (The Acid House – 1998 and Ecstasy – 2011), does FILTH come close to making the impact Trainspotting accomplished in 1996?

james_mcavoy-as-bruce-robertson swearing at a young child in the movie filthSet in the murky world of Edinburgh’s constabulary, our story is that of Bruce Robertson, a bipolar, misogynistic, sex obsessed, alcohol and narcotics fiend, who just so happens to be a Detective Sergeant for Edinburgh’s Lothian and Borders finest. When the lucrative position of Detective Inspector becomes available, Bruce eager to work his way up the chain of command (largely to impress his wife) is pit against his fellow man in a bid to secure the post. And thus starts Bruce’s game-plan, to quickly turn one against another, spreading salacious lies, gossip and using every manipulation technique at his disposal, in a brutish attempt to grab the position he sees as his.

This all takes place in the lingering shadow of an on-going murder investigation, one that may just expose more than initially anticipated.

Does Filth come close to making the impact Trainspotting accomplished in 1996?

Here in Britain the term FILTH is attached and has urbanised into several vernacular meanings. Not only is it widely used to describe utter depravity, but is also a common slang term for the Police.

And thus is where credit must be given to writer/director Jon S. Baird. Not only has he had the guile to take on an Irvine Welsh novel, which is very specific in its Language, tone and characters, but have the grit to stick to his guns, choosing not to tone down the adaptation to reach a wider audience. Instead he chose to dive straight into Welsh’s novel with both feet, fixed on retaining the integrate of the Welsh’s vision. The results transpire as a perfect blend of comedic darkness and vulgarity which translates to screen quite beautifully.

jamie bell and james mcavoy lead the the way in jon s bairds film filthEveryone knows that nobody quite writes characters like Irvine Welsh and the cast that Baird has assembled for FILTH is as close to perfection as it comes. Not one bad performance for duff line is spouted throughout and not one performance in under par.

From the adolescent uncertainly of Ray (Jamie Bell) to the soft, fluffy and highly impressionable, Bladesey (Eddie Marsan) the pool of talent barely shows signs of stopping throughout.

However, this is James McAvoy’s film and from the very first frame he has you in the palm of his hand, commanding the screen in a mesmerizing and dynamically career best performance. McAvoy shows a range that he has rarely had the chance to show until now, convincingly turning from a dead-eyed menace one moment to a teary-eyed wreck the next. He successfully displays the layers needed to play a man struggling through life from years of angst and heartache. Gone is the boyish charm and the good guy image that has dictated his career for too many a year in my opinion. Yes, Mr Tumnus has had a few hard years in Narnia, only now emerging from the wardrobe looking more like a clone of Oliver Reed….and oh boy, is it’s a joy to watch.

Yes, Mr Tumnus has had a few hard years in Narnia, only now emerging from the wardrobe looking more like a clone of Oliver Reed….and oh boy, is it’s a joy to watch.

It could be argued that FILTH suffers from being  overtly loud, obnoxious and like its lead character rather too cocksure of itself…But isn’t that perhaps the whole point?

Despite the films swagger and absolute relish for the sordid, Filth has bags of charm, energy and comedic backbone, and while its more complex subtleties and its fumbling reach at redemption are often to quiet or misplaced to hear or appreciate in the ensuing chaos, the films savage displays of ‘I don’t give a F@#K’ from its lead will likely help give Filth that must see cult quality.

FILTH Review Allan Brown


Summary: Filth is likely to repel and enthral audiences in equal measure. It’s is hilarious and reckless, trashing through everything in its wake, in one exciting, vulgar and relentless thrill ride…for those who think they can stomach it, GO SEE IT!


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Despite my 9-5 being consumed by the daily duties of an Electrician, Movie Review World serves as a platform for me to share my thoughts, explorations and reflections on one of my biggest passions, film.

13 Responses to FILTH Review

  1. Sarah says:

    Allan. A great review. Passionately written and many a valid observation. Although I think I enjoyed reading the above more than I enjoyed the atrocity that was the film itself.

    I agree with you re: it being McAvoy’s film. Just when I thought I could not be more repulsed or turned off by his freckled, cocksure, pasty face I saw FILTH and found my disdain reached a whole new level. For me, he is Robertson. Whether that took a great deal of Stanislavski style study pre-shooting or whether it came naturally, kudos to the casting directors – whom are all female worthy of noting!

    McAvoy’s performance aside, the film fell short in too many other ways. The editing, for one, was embarrassing. An articulate viewer will be appalled at the mistakes made with the mise-en-scene and narratively, the director cut too many corners for it to be a credible offering. This is an ode to the writing of Irvine Welsh, via the depiction of Robertson through McAvoy, which is fine. But worth the ticket price for the viewer expecting to see a film which offers any insightful interpretation of Irvine’s masterful text or a story of any clout? Afraid not.

    Mr Tumnus, get your arse back in the wardrobe.

    • Allan Brown says:

      Ah yes, the editing. I did wonder when this gremlin would raise its ugly head in discussion. I agree the editing wasn’t great. Characters weren’t given enough screen time to establish while others seemed to pop up in the narrative to then disappear for prolonged periods, only to resurface as nothing more than background noise (Jamie Bell). I also think there were issues with the narrative itself, were certain scenes and loose ends came together a little to tidily and confidently to be fully credible (the scene were the police show up to find Robertson tied up).

      That aside, I still think there is much to admire from Jon S.Barids adaptation, his style is slick, exciting, funny, well paced and I thought his take on Welsh’s novel hit all the right notes. Every now and again there is a film were an actor’s performance not only elevates the picture but accentually outshines it in every way (Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman) . James McAvoy’s performance in FILTH did that for me.

      Mr Tumnus, don’t listen to her, she didn’t mean it.

  2. Great review! The performances were indeed all outstanding. A really strong cast all round. My problem isn’t with the loudness of the film but with the charm. I understand it’s meant to be arrogant and shocking but when not one character is likeable and spouts homophobic line after homophobic line, I struggled to find anything likeable at all.

    • Allan Brown says:

      So with that said would you agree it was more of a personal preference that resulted in your final assessment of filth, other than a technical or production issue?

  3. Tyson Carter says:

    My problem is that I cant stand Mcavoy. I just dont rate him. Maybe this film will convert me!

  4. Well done squire, very nice review. Without McAvoy’s talismanic performance I’m uncertain how much it would lose; a fair bit probably.

    • Allan Brown says:

      I fully agree. If Jon S. Baird does go ahead and adapt CRIME (sequel) for the big sceen it will be a shame McAvoy wont get another stab at this horribly delightful character.

  5. Mark Walker says:

    Excellent stuff Allen. We seem to have found the same appreciation and enjoyment from this one. I can’t believe Tyson has said above that he doesn’t rate McAvoy. The man’s on fire in this. Top quality acting.

    • Allan Brown says:

      I agree although I was on the fence about him myself before this performance. I saw him lacking a dark side to convincingly full this character off. In hindsight, I should learn to have more faith in the man’s talents. Thanks for stopping by Mark.

  6. Superb review! Glad you liked it.

    Filth isn’t an easy watch. I couldn’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 isn’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.

    • Allan Brown says:

      McAvoy truly knocked it out the park huh? I was surprised as, like Ive stated before, I have always thought he lacked something as an actor, perhaps a dark side. This performance however, steadily put me in my place. Thanks for dropping by

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