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Blu-ray Review: 'Filth'

James McAvoy in "Filth"
James McAvoy in "Filth"
Yahoo Images

The Film:

Just the other week, I reviewed a small British film called “Dom Hemingway” in which the filmmakers attempted to gloss over the major issues in the film’s writing by gambling everything on the quirky main character and the performance by Jude Law that breathed life into him. Unfortunately, they lost that bet in devastating fashion, which makes it even sadder to see another small British film attempting to do the very same thing.

Filth,” based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, revolves around a police detective, Bruce (James McAvoy), who does everything he can in order to secure a promotion to detective-inspector, even if it means framing his competition for crimes they didn’t commit, or even casting doubts on their sexual orientation. Meanwhile, his unit has been charged with solving the local murder of a Japanese student, but this becomes extremely difficult for Bruce as he descends into a fit of madness caused by a number of things, including his wife and child leaving him, guilt over his brother’s death, and, of course, drugs and alcohol. His plan to get ahead quickly begins to fall apart as he slowly loses his grip on reality.

This is another film where the writer/director (Jon S. Baird in this case) hoped that a great performance from his lead actor would help overshadow the outstanding flaws in the screenplay, of which there are many. Unfortunately for him, just like with “Dom Hemingway,” the screenplay is not something you can just leave as an afterthought, with the hope that everything will turn out fine. Golden Globe and BAFTA nominee James McAvoy does do a great job and is worthy of the praise he has been receiving for the role, but it’s not nearly enough to fix the issues in the storyline.

It’s hard to think of a film in recent memory that has had this much trouble concentrating on its main plot, meandering about like it doesn’t have a care in the world. If the film can’t even focus on its storyline, why should the audience bother to pay any attention to it? This is simply one of those cases where they thought that if they just made it weird enough (Bruce hallucinates quite a bit throughout the film) that that would be engaging enough, but given that there’s no substance in these sections, there’s little reason for the audience to waste their time with it. We do finally get around to the solving of the murder, but it ends up feeling like such a random ending, one that certainly wasn’t worth the overstretched 98 minutes to get there.

“Filth” is a film that ends up leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth, not because of the content (you get what you would expect with such a title), but because it ends up getting nowhere with its shallow attempts at a plot and overanxious attempts to be bizarre. It’s an utter shame to see McAvoy wasted in a film like this, but given the amazing reviews he is personally receiving, it looks like he’ll come out of it unscathed. Baird’s career becomes something of a different question. There are many filmmakers who have bounced back after making awful films, so after this, I suppose we can only wait and see. It’ll be difficult, but if he puts as much perseverance into getting his next project made as he put into this heap, perhaps he’ll be alright as well.


“Filth” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of questionable quality. It’s disappointing to see that, for a film that is relying heavily on its visual impact, it has not been given particularly good treatment. The picture is slightly blurry throughout the entire presentation, which doesn’t pose a particularly big problem, but it is distinctly noticeable. On the other hand, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is top-notch, giving you all audial aspects in perfect quality. Overall, while there was room for a fair amount of improvement on the video side of things, at least the soundtrack has no problems to be heard.

Special Features:

Commentary with Director Jon S. Baird and Author Irvine Welsh: A commentary that simply shows that Baird and Welsh don’t have that much to say about the film.

Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes: About 23 minutes of scenes that merely show that the film could have been stretched out even more than it was.

Outtakes: Several minutes of outtakes that aren’t particularly amusing, so they’re not really worth the time to watch.

On the Set: Merry Filthmas: A very brief (four minutes) and superficial featurette that features some behind the scenes footage of a party scene in the film. Easily skippable.

James McAvoy as Detective Robertson: The Antihero: The one extra on the disc that’s worth watching features some of the cast and crew discussing the main character and what McAvoy brought to him.


“Filth” is just further proof that filmmakers shouldn’t risk their entire project on one character/actor when the screenplay is in need of a vast amount of work. If the screenplay has problems, they will show no matter who that lead actor is or what character they’re portraying. “Filth” has a number of issues ranging from its meandering nature to its stretched-out plotline that the writer tries to fill with random weirdness instead of substance. Only if such problems are attended to first will the spotlighted character have a chance to succeed, because if they’re not, it’s merely wasted talent going down the drain into a forgettable void.

Score: 2/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting Tuesday.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Divergent, Need for Speed, Noah, Dom Hemingway, Transcendence, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Cesar Chavez, Rio 2, Under the Skin, Open Grave, Deadly Eyes, Jodorowsky's Dune, Lake Placid, Nymphomaniac, Afflicted, House of Cards: Season Two, The Lego Movie, Ernest & Celestine, 13 Sins, Joe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tim's Vermeer, Alan Partridge, RoboCop (2014), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut

Now playing in theaters: Get on Up, How to Train Your Dragon 2

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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