Sometimes a movie just comes out of left field to genuinely slap you upside the head as something unexpected and highly entertaining. Adapted from a novel by Irvine Welsh, "Filth" gives us a hell of a performance from an unexpected source who truly embraces the bastard inside him.
Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) wants a promotion. He is clearly the best man for the job and the rest of his colleagues, well at least in his mind they are just a bunch of idiots. However something rather annoyingly has gotten in the way of all that, there's been a murder and Bruce's boss wants results. It's no problem for Bruce because he's always in control, and when he solves the case and wins the promotion, his wife will return to him all his problems will be solved. Simple enough, right? Wrong, Bruce is not in control and on the verge of losing his mind as he wades deeper and deeper into the mess that he's made for himself.
A movie like this one unquestionably sinks or swims based on the quality of the lead performance and James McAvoy simply tears into this role like a beast unhinged and it makes "Filth" such an unequivocal delight to wallow in and truly enjoy.
Writer/Director Jon S Baird seemingly comes from the Danny Boyle school of filmmaking and it actually serves him exceptionally well on this his only second outing as he veers in and out of the very underbelly of Scotland making it feel like there was a den of inequity, perversion and moral ambiguity just around every street corner that we encounter, it flows with an inexplicable foul mouthed magic and as McAvoy serves as guide down this rabbit hole of unrelenting abuse and excess we can't help but be glued to every single moment on his downward spiral.
With a role like this one, attacking at 50%, 75% or even 100% intensity just isn't enough, and to his credit McAvoy knew it. Throwing himself into this one at 110% speed and ferocity, James McAvoy easily delivers one of the more compelling performances of his entire career taking us places that you flat out won't expect from him. To call it a tour de force performance would be underselling how good McAvoy is in this movie as we go from sympathizing with him, then loving him and then wanting to throttle him right after that so many times that you will lose count. The likes of Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent, Jamie Bell & Imogen Poots all exist around him to varying degrees and play off his spiraling wild man with absolute perfection and it's just an amazing thing to watch.
Movies like this one have happened before, and they will happen again but they only truly work when there is a genuine and palpable sense of abandon to it all. It would be easy to dismiss "Filth" as just another gonzo tale of substance abuse excess, but that would be a huge mistake as this film takes us to that place so many films rarely do, by taking us to that truly foul emotional place where we don't want to stomach any more, but know damn well that we will.
5 out of 5 stars.
"Filth" opens in theatres in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon on Friday May 30th and is available on iTunes and premium VOD right now.