PLOT:Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a detective in Scotland investigating a racially motivated murder while attempting to gain an important promotion at work. However, Bruce leads a double life. While he pretends to be an upstanding officer, he's actually a raging drug addict who uses his powers as a cop to score drugs, gain sexual favours, and generally wreak diabolical havoc on his friends and colleges (which he calls, The Games).
REVIEW:Scottish writer Irvine Welsh is a notoriously difficult author to adapt. Danny Boyle managed to turn TRAINSPOTTING into a masterpiece, but other directors have had far less success, with movies like THE ACID HOUSE and ECTASY. If you've ever read one of Welsh's books, which are written in often indecipherable Scottish slang, you'll understand why. FILTH widely considered his best book other than TRAINSPOTTING must have been especially difficult, with DS Bruce Robertson being one of the most malevolent anti-heroes in recent memory.
Having read FILTH last year, it's clear that writer-director Jon S. Baird significantly toned-down the character. While one might consider this a bit of a cop-out, to my way of thinking he didn't have much of a choice, as there's no way Robertson ever could have been made even the slightest bit sympathetic, even with an actor like James McAvoy in the part. To Baird's credit, a lot of Robertson's more unsavoury traits have been left intact, with him just as much of a coke-snorting, bondage loving maniac as he was in the book, if slightly less psychopathic.
As it is, Robertson's personality may turn off a lot of viewers, but if you've seen the trailers or know anything about Welsh, you should know what you're getting into. This is easily the best Welsh has been treated on the big screen since TRAINSPOTTING. While it's far from a masterpiece, it's still a lean, manic ninety-minute ride, and a darkly funny police procedural.
McAvoy seems to be having the time of his life as the ne'er do-well Robertson, gleefully giving a child the middle finger (after stealing his balloons) and cheerfully saying he became a cop so he could participate in police oppression. The plus to having such a naturally sympathetic guy like McAvoy in the part is that when it's revealed Robertson wasn't always a borderline psycho, and actually does have a soft-side (seemingly caring about a young widow played by DOWNTON ABBEY's Joanne Froggatt) it's somewhat easy to accept. While he's certainly past any kind of redemption, as played by McAvoy he's somewhat less despicable than he would have been in another actor's hands, making the film more palatable than it would have been otherwise.
In addition to McAvoy, Baird's filled his cast with a solid mix of up-and-comers (including Jamie Bell as another coke-addled cop and Imogen Poots as a straight-laced rookie) and veterans (Jim Broadbent, and a scene-stealing Eddie Marsan as McAvoy's put-upon best pal). Baird keeps the film moving at a lightening quick pace, obviously having taking his lead from Danny Boyle, with the soundtrack loaded with vintage pop tunes, and music-video-style cutting. While there's nothing as memorable of Ewan McGregor diving into a toiled after a load of heroin, Baird's put in a few interesting bits of business, including a cameo by David Soul (of STARSKY & HUTCH) randomly showing up to sing his UK Top 10 hit Silver Lady. It's all very weird, but it's also very amusing if you can stomach Robertson's malevolence.
While FILTH isn't the insane ride Irving Welsh's book was, it's probably as close and as brave an adaptation of that book as we're ever going to get outside of being adapted by a guy like Danny Boyle. It's probably a little to harsh for a wide audience, but for those of us that like heavy doses of insanity in our films, FILTH is well-worth checking out.