Filth Jon S. Baird
Published Aug 12, 2014Blame Trainspotting. It managed to convince the world that the novels of Irvine Welsh were actually filmable, rather than the messy, stream of consciousness stories that they are, yet still people continue trying to turn his books into films with mixed results. Enter Filth.
Based on the 1998 novel of the same name, Filth is the story of unhinged police officer Bruce Robertson and his attempts to gain promotion by any means necessary. That includes sabotaging his competing colleagues and generally being not very nice on an epic scale. He's a thoroughly dislikeable bloke, and his utter contempt for humanity leads to the movie's main problem — it's hard to relate to this protagonist. He transcends anti-heroism, landing right in asshole territory. If it wasn't for the hypnotic performance of James McAvoy, it would be a chore to watch — the film is just a series of grubby sex, drugs and misanthropic scenes without enough humour to qualify as a dark comedy.
McAvoy is fantastic. He embraces the ridiculousness of the movie and makes Filth a better film as a result. Everyone else is fodder for him and his machinations, so while the supporting cast is uniformly decent (including the always reliable Jim Broadbent and a bizarre cameo by David Soul), they barely register onscreen while he's present.
In trying to create a coherent narrative, director Baird has done away with some of the more unique elements from the novel in his screenplay. Gone is the talking tapeworm, replaced by psychiatrist who diagnoses Bruce as clinically bipolar, and the gradual descent into hallucinatory madness is explained by him not taking his prescribed lithium, implying that the film's climax wasn't inevitable. The book isn't quite so optimistic.
The highlight of the extras included on the Blu-ray is a very chatty commentary track featuring Jon S. Baird and Irvine Welsh. Welsh isn't nearly as funny as he thinks he is, but he does manage to keep prodding Baird in a way that produces plenty of information about making the film. They basically don't shut up for 98 minutes. Less exciting is the typical mixture of deleted scenes, outtakes and featurettes, but that's really nothing new.
(Video Service Corp.)