Review: Filth

Poster for 2013 black comedy Filth

Genre: Crime/Comedy
Certificate: 18
UK Release Date: 4th October 2013
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Jon S Baird
Writer: Jon S Baird
Starring: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent
Synopsis: A crooked Edinburgh cop experiences a mental breakdown as he attempts to snort and shag his way to the top of the police force.



Filth might be the most perplexing film of 2013. Adapted from the novel by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, it’s a substance-fuelled, haphazard jaunt through the turbulent life of a corrupt Edinburgh policeman. Unfortunately, it’s not funny or interesting enough to justify its comedic mean streak.

DS Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) spends his days battling his fellow police officers (Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell) for a promotion, engaging in questionable sexual practices and pranking his mild-mannered friend Bladesy (Eddie Marsan). Troubled by visions of his psychiatrist (Jim Broadbent) and his unravelling life, he starts to go just a little bit insane.

It would be false to say that Filth is a safe film. In fact, the one thing that it does have in abundance is wild-eyed ambition. In trying to be a truthful adaptation of the Irvine Welsh source novel, it has forgotten that, despite recent successes such as Life of Pi, some books genuinely are unfilmable.

Despite a committed, wild-eyed performance from the reliably excellent James McAvoy, Filth finds itself struggling to moderate itself. Obviously, the excesses of Welsh’s prose don’t naturally translate to the big screen, but Jon S Baird’s film cannot decide how to edit it. It knows that it wants to be offensive, so it goes for balls-out anarchy, but it isn’t interesting or funny enough to justify the boundary pushing humour.

There are treats to be found. McAvoy, of course, is great and Eddie Marsan provides excellent support in another of his increasingly impressive comedic roles. Jim Broadbent is well cast as the film’s equivalent of the book’s talking tapeworm, but is forced to battle with lazy writing and a generally poor substitute for an intriguing literary device.

As the film turns towards its bleak finale, it comes into its own. Whilst it piles on a little too much oppressive weirdness, it eventually delivers on the nihilism and blackness. Filth only feels right in its final touch of blackness, which is organic rather than merely a Frankie Boyle one-liner.


Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!
Filth isn’t without merit and it’s refreshing to see a literary adaptation that is willing to take risks. Unfortunately though, besides some solid central performances, the film is writing offence cheques that its script can’t cash and it leaves a bit of a bad taste behind.


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