Filth (2014)

Still trust your local police department?

Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is one twisted individual. He likes to party hard; screw just about any woman that’s capable of walking, regardless of if they’re married or not; manipulate his way into getting what he wants, from whomever he wants; do as much blow as humanly capable; and do what helps him, and forget those around him. And you know what else there is about him? He’s a detective that’s trying his hardest for a promotion that’s been spurred on by his wife’s hopes and wishes. Bruce knows that if he puts his mind to it, that promotion will be his, and life will be grand for he and his family once again. However, as time goes on, Bruce’s mind starts to get more and more warped up into things that may not even be real – they just make him go all the more ballistic than he really is. Those around him start to take notice and wonder if he’s not only right for the job in the first place, but also if he’s just right in the head in general. Bruce doesn’t care though. As long as there’s plenty of booze, blow, women, and rave music around, then he’s all fine and dandy. Fuck everything else.

I guess the best way to start this review off would be to talk about what really make this film stand-out, and that’s James McAvoy himself. See, with James McAvoy, I’ve always felt like he’s been a good actor, he just has yet to have that role where he’s really showed the world what he’s got and his range. He’s always been the confident pretty-boy in just about everything he’s showed-up in and more often than not, ended up doing a nice enough job to where I didn’t care if he was just playing the same role he’s played before; he’s just always been James McAvoy, playing James McAvoy, in a very James McAvoy-y role.

Oh dad.
Oh dad.

And to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that – so many actors (like Christopher Walken) just live their lives off of playing the same persona, time and time again, regardless of if the character is a different one or not. It’s just that they have this certain “charm” to them that makes their performance all the better and more charming, hence why they’re not changing anything up to begin with. Why fix what’s clearly not broken, right?

In McAvoy’s case, it’s not that there wasn’t anything broken in the first place, it’s just that things were looking to get a tad bit boring on his part. Thankfully, with this role as Bruce Robertson, McAvoy has finally found the role that will not only have everybody look at his pretty-face in a whole new light, but may even have some people thinking of that, with the right role, in the right movie, he could even be an Oscar-contender. I know, a pretty bold statement, but just viewing his work here, I can totally see it.

What McAvoy does well as Bruce Robertson, is that he always lets us know he’s having a good time, yet, never gets away from the fact that there’s an under-lining sadness and depression to it all. Early on, we know that something’s a little iffy with Bruce’s home-life (we hardly ever see him and his wife together, and whenever we do see her, it’s in a strange, flash-back fashion that has her talking directly to us), so it’s clear that all of the good/wild times Bruce is having, definitely seems to have a deeper meaning to it all. Is he doing all of this to get the promotion and ensure that his marriage will stay put? Or, is he just doing all of this rambunctious, crazy shite because he’s a deeply dark, upset, and messed-up dude?

It’s a little bit of both, but what McAvoy does here, and he does well, is that he’s able to turn it on, and then turn it off. He’s able to be the life of the party, that’s always the first one to bring out the coke or whip out his cock; but he’s also the last one to go home without anybody by his side, nor a shoulder to cry on. He’s a sad man, we know this and because of that, we sort of sympathize with him, even while he does do some mean, nasty, and cruel things to others that clearly just want to be a friend of some sorts to him. McAvoy uses Bruce Robertson as a tool to show everybody that he’s not only a very scary-presence to be seen, when given the right material, but that he’s able to make us see him as a bit of a good guy, as well as a bit of a bad guy.

The conclusion we end up coming to with this character at the end, is totally up to us, the viewer. But there’s no doubt in my mind that everybody can come to the same conclusion with McAvoy’s performance in saying that it’s pretty damn spectacular.

It's like Reservoir Dogs, except for the fact that everybody's talking in ways you can't ever understand.
It’s like Reservoir Dogs, except for the fact that everybody’s talking in ways you can’t ever understand.

The problem is that while McAvoy’s great, the movie itself necessarily isn’t. What works so well for the rest of Filth is that it is, for the most part, constantly moving and on its feet. Much like another Irvine Welsh adaptation, Trainspotting, we get an colorful-narration from somebody who clearly seems like their hopped-up on something fun, some sort of music in the background that keeps everything moving, and a bunch of lines that come and go so quick, you may have to either pause and rewind just to get everything clear, or just decide to move on and enjoy the ride while it’s on and running. And that’s why, for what it’s worth, Filth is a pretty good time; there’s hardly ever a moment where the film slows down the brakes to a total halt, and even if it does come close to doing that, it’s only because it wants develop characters and their relationships with others a little bit more.

Nothing wrong with that at all, except for the fact that the movie never really has anything interesting to do with its characters, except for Bruce Robertson of course. The ensemble the movie’s put together is great and really helps the characters grow and be something more than just typical cliches, but nobody can really overcome it all like McAvoy does, who clearly has the best-written part in the whole movie. Eddie Marsan gets a chance to bring some pathos to this material, as well as Imogen Poots, but for the most part, everybody’s pretty wacky and zany, as if they were in some version of a cartoon. Except with this cartoon, there’s more sex, drugs, and boozing.

Which, once again, is all fun – everybody loves a good party, and who doesn’t love them even more when attractive-people are the ones involved with it? Me! I just wish there was just more to this party than just all of the favors we’re promised at the door.

Consensus: The main attraction of Filth is clearly James McAvoy and his wild and crazy performance that sheds some emotion here and there, however, everything else is clearly not as up-to-par, nor is it really all that interesting to make you want to see more of it. You just sort of want McAvoy to keep on getting nuts and have absolutely no shame whatsoever.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry, James. You're still looking fine.
Don’t worry, James. You’re still looking fine. You lucky bastard you.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz


  1. I really didn’t enjoy this film at all, it was a while ago when I saw it now like. But you are spot on about McAvoy! Good review 🙂

  2. I love this movie. It is so strange and weird, but Jon S. Baird managed to make it coherent. Well, vaguely coherent… well, not really, but… I love this movie.

  3. That’s a pretty fair review of the film, I suppose. I had to watch it three times myself before I feel I could properly judge how much or little I enjoyed this piece of work, although it only took one viewing for me to realize how thoroughly enjoyable McAvoy’s scintillating performance is.

    The part that I find myself strongly disagreeing with you about is the part where you said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he’s essentially playing himself in roles that are similar before this one came along. I think that’s too broad a judgment for someone who does the kind of work he does and really don’t think that assessment’s fair at all. After recently catching up on the majority of his body of work, barring a few of the very, very early ones that I can’t seem to get my hands on, and his theatrical ones that I’ve yet had the fortune to experience, I’ve found that his performances–some with idiosyncracies, some without–have always been layered and versatile, each one with its very own subtleties and nuances, that’s extremely different from its peers, despite being limited to roles where the audience don’t get to see him as an out-and-out demented asshole like we do this one.

    His role here as DS Robertson is so stratospherically different (it’s basically a knuckle sandwich in the face to all those who never expected something this far-out from him) from everything else he’s ever done up to and including the darker roles he’s been immersing himself in lately, that a person would have to be quite dead in the head to not notice the difference. With Robertson, even if he is more of an anti-hero than a villain (although I do think it’s more due to the fact that he’s the main character and narrator and less for the lack of trying–he’d certainly be a villain if that weren’t the case), McAvoy’s more than proven that he’s got the chops to take on full-on villainy if a bad-guy role he finds worth doing ever meanders its way down his path. But the truth is, the rest of his roles that he’s done thus far are all vastly different in that they are all telling very different stories and serve utterly different functions in the piece of work they are in.

    That said, it is in my honest opinion that if he never took on this role and continued playing roles on just this side of the coin, so to speak, all it takes is one more great performance from him in a strategic role and we’ll no doubt see him a contender worthy of any prestigious award. He’s always had the capacity to be one, just not the luck and positioning.

    • I like what you say here. Personally, I felt like McAvoy has always been around and doing good work, but he has yet to really blow me away. Here is that moment and I’m happy to see him move some more.

  4. Fantastic review Dan! I am a HUGE fan of this movie, it worked for me on so many levels! I understand your criticisms on it. McAvoy was amazing, and truly carried this film!

  5. I love McAvoy in this film, made me like him more, but the film itself was nothing great. It was an interesting story, but it didn’t come through for me.

  6. I was really looking forward to this one. I agree with your thoughts on McAvoy, thought I thought he was more than decent in the newest X-Men film. Hopefully I’ll like it. Nice review, as always!

  7. I think this is one of those films which will improve over many viewings because it is difficult to adjust at the tonal lurches from humour to pathos to all out insanity. It is very faithful to the book and gets the “multi-personality” right but personally I preferred the darker emotional moments rather than the drug/sexual references.

    While the director grapples with the tone like fisherman fighting an eel (this actually works for the subject matter though) JAMES MCEVOY anchors the film brilliantly. I see your point in regard to his range but must disagree in regard to comparison of this performance and his acting in ATONEMENT. Two entirely different roles playing completely different characters.

    Great review – always look forward to your work.

  8. On the fence with this one. I have a copy but it doesn’t sound quite up my alley and I do like McAvoy. I may give it a shot after reading your review, Dan. Maybe just not right away. Thanks!

  9. Oh my… “Filth” was shockingly funny and thanks to it it’s impossible for me to look at McAvoy and see him as Charles Xavier. McAvoy is for “Filth” probably the same thing as Jolie is for “Maleficent”. Both movies were only enjoyable due to their outstanding performances. In the case of McAvoy I was amazed and thrilled with every single moment he had on the movie. A movie that was a bit disappointing to me because I was expecting something top quality near the extraordinary but thanks to McAvoy I was still able to enjoy it. By the way, great review Dan!

  10. Good review Dan. I was a big admirer of this film but there’s no doubt that it’s McAvoy’s deal through and through. He’s absolutely superb. Like how you mention Oscars along with name. I suppose it all comes down to release dates but I seen this before Wolf of Wall St and reckon McAvoy’s as good as DiCaprio’s nominated performance. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get a look in at awards season and it’s likely he’ll be forgotten about come next years nominations.

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