Filth (2013)


Filth (2013)

UK; Jon S. Baird

Mature Audiences – Strong Language; Sexual Content; Drug Use and Depravity

Scheming Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), an unorthodox, obscene and brutal police officer, manipulates his way to secure a promotion and, in the process, win back his wife and right to happiness. But Bruce, who meticulously exposes and humiliates his colleagues through a complex tangle of lies, treasons and deceit, is hiding the most hideous secrets under a façade of cool, macho bravado. A crippling drug habit, old traumas and emotional solitude start to feed on his already deranged psyche, making it increasingly problematic to find his way into the tangle of lies he weaved himself. 

Like Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting did for British cinema much more than crack open a window of possibilities that weren’t quite acceptable previously: it blew up the wall! But in their wake flourished a wealth of mediocre and exceedingly bizarre duplicates, which have never risen above the status of interesting failures. But from the murky depths of the arthouse ghetto surfaces an unlikely and uncanny crossover hit, Jon S. Baird pitch-black comedy “Filth”. The way this cinematic F-bomb took over everyone’s imagination, building anticipation, is more than a cleverly orchestrated marketing move. It proves that deep down, film audiences are still willing to get their hands dirty. 

Filth is more a film about mental illness than about debauchery. To be precise, it is about a case of acute mental disorder whose only manifest symptom is, at first, a bacchanalia of demented immorality and bad behavior. If it sounds funny, it is because it more than that: it’s, at times, nothing less than exhilarating, as vilely and darkly hilarious as black comedy can get. When the ensemble veers towards darker territories, it does so bafflingly and brutally, yet handling the transition with the same heightened and surreal sense of humor. But after all the garish lights of the show, it takes our eyes a while to get used to the dark.

McAvoy takes central stage with a wide, demonical grin on his face. He is by turn unctuous, sly, vicious, enraged, scared and ultimately desperate. He is, to put it briefly, Bruce Robertson.

Though Filth is not for everyone, it is a quite exceptional experience. Not because of the relentless and dirty fun, as Trainspotting or even the more recent Dom Hemingway were equally skilled in maintaining throughout the film its original insane momentum, but because it is also  a credible and moving study of a man cornered by his demons. The pitch might not be particularly original, but even if you feel you can see it all coming, there are still some thrills and shocks in store for the blasé viewer.  Never underestimate Bruce Robertson (or McAvoy, if you will).


Filth poster feature

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