Hey everyone! Sorry about the long hiatus, but we’re back! This week, Sam and Nic will take a look at the Wolf of Wall Street-esque Filth, directed by Jon S. Baird. Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, language and some violence, it stars James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, and Jim Broadbent.
Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) is a corrupt cop and a bigot. He is also in line for a promotion, and will stop at nothing to get that spot. Bruce starts to turn his fellow cops against each other by stealing their wives and revealing their secrets. As he slowly starts to lose himself in the uncontrollable mess he has created, his drug habit, missing wife, and suspicious colleagues start to cripple his sanity.
3 out of 10
This film was heavily branded as being “from the creator of Trainspotting” and the trailer did everything it could to play up the British-dirty-crime-movie vibe. However, in trying so hard to fit into the Trainspotting, Guy Ritchie film category, Filth ended up simply copying cliches, creating a relatively plotless work quite utterly devoid of originality and (despite all of the sensationalism) one which barely kept my interest.
Filth quite literally had it all: corruption, drugs, alcohol, hallucinations, an overwhelming amount of penis discussion, parties, abuse, cross dressing, affairs, suicide, betrayal, violence—you name it. Every little thing you could possibly think of to make a movie more exciting was stuffed into an hour and a half time frame, as if the author or screenwriter took the most provocative part of every other movie in this genre and shoved all the pieces together.
In some movies, Wolf of Wall Street for example, the overwhelming sex, drugs, and partying works. The impact is striking and you feel absolutely awful watching, while at the same time being unable to take your eyes off the screen. In Filth, however, I didn’t feel anything. Maybe I’ve been exposed to too many films with extreme violence and sex and drugs, but this apathy is more likely linked to the fact that I didn’t care about James McAvoy’s character, Bruce.
The film makers tried too hard to make Bruce a bad boy who is really good at heart, and I believe that is what caused my lack of connection. Yes, he sneaks drugs into his only friend’s drink, yes he is having an affair with his colleague’s wife, yes, he threatens and abuses suspects, but honestly he’s a great guy. When a woman’s husband collapses on the street he helps out, and whenever he sees her again all of a sudden he is this sweet, sensitive man who is all alone in the world. At the end of the film he is coaching his “friend” and says “The truth is, people are just as scared of the world as you are. I’m scared of the world.” Wow. Deep stuff. Now, yes, I’d like to believe that even the hardest, most awful people out there are lonely and just want to be loved underneath it all, but having such forced depth of character just felt fake.
On top of it all, the film’s plot was incredibly weak. Nothing really happens besides Bruce fighting to get a promotion and occasionally having a terrifying hallucination of someone in an animal mask. All of the major plot points (spoiler alert) such as when we find out it was really him in Carol’s clothing, when we hear the story about him killing his brother, and when he commits suicide, felt calculated to make the movie more intense.
However, it would be unfair to totally disregard the limited redeeming factors. The colors of the film were really lovely, somehow saturated and muted at the same time, and it had an overall misty quality that was particularly appealing. Imogen Poots’ character had fabulous makeup, and James McAvoy’s nose crunching laugh made my heart melt. However, not even McAvoy’s sheer fabulousness could salvage a movie so sunk in the depth of banality.
2 out of 10
“Same rules apply”. James McAvoy repeats this line again and again in his role as Detective Bruce Robertson in this adaption of Irvine Welsh’s novel. Yet even at the very end of the movie, I had absolutely no clue exactly what he meant by it. In this way, it is the rule not the exception in this weird movie. The director Jon S Baird seems to be trying to say something profound, but it all gets hopelessly muddled and confused somewhere between the people turning into farm animals and a bald-headed Jim Broadbent screaming “aye, aye” at Bruce.
Some people will be drawn to this movie because of the big name on the source material. But this is not Welsh on the form of his debut Trainspotting. Instead, it comes off as a lackadaisical attempt to transport the bacchanalian tragedy of his earlier success 17 years later to the present day. When Ewan McGregor’s Renton says, “Choose your future. Choose life…. But why would I want to do thing like that” at the start of Trainspotting it comes off as astute, in touch and just plain awesome. Filth seems to be trying for the entire movie to achieve a moment like that and yet it never comes.
James McAvoy has had some practice playing Scots involved in less than savory affairs, having starred in Danny Boyle’s Trance last year. But where McAvoy could rely on Boyle’s showmanship and directorial gift in Trance to carry his lackluster performance, here he has no such luxury and his sub-par performance is made painfully clear. None of the other performances are any better. All the actors play to their gift-wrapped stereotypes so much throughout the film that any deviation comes off as out of place.
The film is also needlessly and annoyingly scary at some points. If you want to scare me at least do it cleverly. Don’t just have some random freaky creature jump out at certain intervals. These moments completed the actors’ and plot’s job, making the film extremely difficult to watch near the end.
Honestly I think I’ve already put in more effort into developing this review than the director put into the movie so I shall leave it here.
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%