Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Bruce Robertson is a duplicitous, calculating, depraved police detective who desperately covets a prized promotion to Detective Inspector, for he believes it will help him get his estranged wife and daughter back. When Robertson is assigned to lead the investigation of the ruthless murder of a Japanese student, he gleefully sees this as the perfect opportunity to get a leg up on his fellow colleagues. Unfortunately for Robertson, his chances for advancement are put in jeopardy as he begins to experience vivid hallucinations that are becoming increasingly more frequent. As Robertson slips deeper into his own personal madness, everyone around him is put at risk of becoming collateral damage.
Now having a few days to reflect and digest what this film tried to feed me, I have to say Filth is a rather fitting title for James McAvoy’s latest effort. Other possible titles I imagine considered might have been Atrocious, Sordid, Ill-Advised, Awful, or, in honor of the film’s Scottish routes, it could have simply been titled Shite. I pride myself in being an exceedingly open-minded film enthusiast when it comes to cinema that deviates from the norm. I have little problem admitting there are going to be films in the future that some may find my praise of to be questionable. Filth, however, in its contrived attempt to be a shockingly aberrant black comedy, has instead sold its soul to the satanic gods of cinema, creating a truly miserable viewing experience.
If there is anything…praiseworthy about Filth, I will concede that James McAvoy is determinedly committed to the vile madness of his character. In Detective Robertson’s attempt to sabotage his co-workers from receiving the highly sought after promotion, McAvoy offers realistically disturbing depictions of erotic asphyxiation with one colleague’s wife, making sexually harassing phone calls to another’s wife, and turning everyone in the office against each other by airing dirty laundry. Throw in blackmailing a teenager for fellatio, cocaine-fueled threesomes, and a myriad of harsh incidents involving bullying those around him, and you can see that this is quite the guy.
It was so difficult to watch a lot of really talented actors getting dragged through the mud by this unhinged bilge of a film. With a screenplay based on the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name, Filth is the second feature film for writer/director Jon S. Baird. Once subjected to the film’s feeble attempt at depicting Robertson’s descent into madness, Baird’s lack of filmmaking experience becomes glaringly obvious as it quickly turns from manically fascinating to distastefully loathsome. Baird’s “shocking” twist ending was also predictably uninspired and anticlimactic.
Filth is awful in ways unimaginable. I really don’t enjoy writing “F” reviews. It means I’ve been subjected to a painful cinema experience and also puts a type of target on my back as people who disagree with my evaluation find it free rein to tell me so, sometimes in graphic detail. But I can’t sugarcoat my honest reaction to a film I truly find to be beyond mediocre, and ironically, no recent film title is more suitable. Filth is a revolting attempt at black-humored debauchery that has become the early front runner for Steamer of the Year. I sincerely hope there’s no film in 2014 that is dreadful enough to dethrone it.-JL