“Filth” is a highly unpleasant movie that took quite a while to get through. Movies that have an antagonistic, unlikable protagonist are hard to pull off since from the beginning you are rooting for the person to fail, when in the narrative they are the ones you are supposed to root for. Bruce isn’t a Walter White or Frank Underwood…their motivations are clear and there are good aspects to their character that offset how ruthless they can be. Not so much for James McAvoy’s Bruce. I’ll get into the why in the assessment.
“Filth” was directed by Jon S. Baird who also was one of the producers and wrote the screenplay. The screenplay was based on the novel Filth by Irvine Welsh and the other producers were: Christian Angermayer, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler and Mark Amin.
This movie took 3 attempts to watch to finally finish, which isn’t usual for me and a film. Usually I can get through a film in one go. So because of this I don’t want think about this film too much. Suffice to say it was a waste.
The premise of the story is Bruce (James McAvoy) is a sociopath, insane, bi-polar detective who enjoys abusive relationships and playing “games” with the people around him. When we meet him his core desire is to get his promotion so his wife will be with him again and this drives his actions and he continues to descend further into insanity as he sees people with animal faces and his life crumbles around him as his illusions are broken.
Here is the assessment of the film:
The Pros: The Music – Clint Mansell does the music and it’s one of the things that got me through this train wreck of a film. The music keeps things compelling even if the characters are poorly written archetypes and Bruce is someone we hate. He’s one of my favorite composers and was perfect for the idea behind the film.
Cinematography – This film is beautifully done, it is stark, harsh and dark and the images we are given all look good in how they are filmed. This doesn’t help the script or the characters but it is very well done. Matthew Jensen knew what he was doing.
Inside Bruce’s Head – If this film just took place in his head it would be a little better. He has conversations with his therapist there and the scenes are trippy. If the movie had only been this and we hadn’t seen how much of a bastard he was outside it could have been a great film. Cause the scenes in his mind are fantastic.
Okay: The Minor Characters – Because we are seeing all of this through Bruce’s eyes the script never gave us a chance to truly know and sympathize with the surrounding characters. This was a huge disservice as the idea behind them was interesting and could have been explored if they weren’t archetypes to be exploited by Bruce.
The Cons: No Comedy – This film marketed itself as a dark comedy, but there was nothing funny about it. Everyone’s world and struggles were serious and the only one taking it as a joke was Bruce. For this reason it marketing itself as a comedy was false advertising.
Bruce – We have no reasons to sympathize with this character. He lost his wife and daughter, but for good reason…he cheated, did drugs, lied and no doubt abused them too. We see he wants to be with his wife as he dresses up as her to be closer to her but we have no reason to believe it’s anything more than want. He’s a character who kills himself at the end but I felt no sympathy for throughout the film or after. He was never going to start a new life he was so deep into his own psychotic world that nothing could pull him out of it, not demotion, not the family he was close too. My lack of sympathy really started with him picking on a rookie and after having a teen give him a blow job in order to blackmail her to stay quiet. That is messed up and initially how the movie presents it as we are supposed to like this guy? Really? This guy is one of the most unlikable fictional characters and even one of my favorite actors James McAvoy cannot change that fact.
This is a film I can’t recommend. It isn’t bad persay, it looks and sounds beautiful because of the music and cinematography…but it gives you no reason to care for Bruce or anyone else. It’s a very detached film, and when you are in a story you need to feel attached to the characters, or there isn’t any point to telling the story in the first place.
Final Score: 6 / 10. Check out the music and visuals, but don’t bother with the film unless this type of film is your kind of thing.