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3.8 out of 5 stars214
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Described by critics as likely to leave its audience feeling soiled inside and out, this latest adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel depicts a Scotland so seamy and sordid that the country's tourist board will be having many a collective sleepless night. Opening with the brutal kicking to death of an innocent Japanese student, the film quickly introduces its anti--hero, the thoroughly amoral and mind-bogglingly lecherous DS Bruce Robertson, in the form of an outstanding James McAvoy, oozing malice and corruption from every conceivable pore.

Alongside colleague and friend Ray Lennox - a wolfish Jamie Bell (if it's possible for such a monster to have a friend), Robertson snorts vasts quantities of cocaine, masturbates furiously in an agony of self-loathing (the latter symbolised by his seeing himself as a grunting, malicious sentient pig in regular hallucinations), physically and verbally abuses suspects, and at one point forces a fifteen year old schoolgirl to give him a blow-job. The despair and nihilism projected by this character is contextualised by his only other real `friend', the neurotic and bashful Clifford Blades, ably played by the naturally hangdog Eddie Marsan, who Bruce persistently and systematically tries to bring down to his level. As Bruce's superior, John Sessions provides quality support, as does Jim Broadbent as an increasingly deranged psychiatrist and the manifestation of the tapeworm that is steadily growing in Bruce's guts and which is contributing in no small part to his toxic personality.

I approached the film with some trepidation after reading of its stomach-churning tone and reprehensible characters, however it wasn't nearly as horrifying as I expected (or maybe I've been desensitised?!) and the frequent anal-sex references and photocopying of genitalia provided a strong seam of comedy - albeit of the darkest hue. Ultimately though, it's a drama depicting one man's slide into mental illness and self-destruction, and despite some odd tonal shifts, it's well worth seeing as an original and challenging movie experience.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 November 2014
While it can't compete with "Trainspotting" for the best adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel (and loses some points for feeling stylistically imitative of Boyle's amazing film at times), it's still an enjoyable super-high energy romp through the muck of one cop's sick and twisted mind.

That messed up cop is played with verve and abandon by James McAvoy. McAvoy is joining actors of his generation like Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling who have the uncanny ability to disappear into wildly different characters seamlessly, and without a lot of `look at this character I created' theatrics.

The supporting cast is this blacker than black comedy of no manners is also terrific, with Eddie Marsan as McAvoy's hapless and meek one real friend standing out in a cast full of stand outs.

Jon Baird directs with so much manic energy the film keeps threatening to derail (and not every scene works, some hitting the metaphors and symbols way too on the nose). But Baird just manages to keep it together enough so that the wretched excess in this story of a detective who will stomp on everyone around himself in hopes of getting a promotion works as a sort of Brecht on acid character study, and not a student film gone wrong (though it gets close at moments).

Not the sort of film to see if you're feeling cranky and critical, but if you want to watch a young(ish) director and some excellent actors push the limits as they look inside the heart of darkness until you don't know whether to laugh or turn away, you could do a lot worse than "Filth".
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 November 2014
While it can't compete with "Trainspotting" for the best adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel (and loses some points for feeling stylistically imitative of Boyle's amazing film at times), it's still an enjoyable super-high energy romp through the muck of one cop's sick and twisted mind.

That messed up cop is played with verve and abandon by James McAvoy. McAvoy is joining actors of his generation like Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling who have the uncanny ability to disappear into wildly different characters seamlessly, and without a lot of `look at this character I created' theatrics.

The supporting cast is this blacker than black comedy of no manners is also terrific, with Eddie Marsan as McAvoy's hapless and meek one real friend standing out in a cast full of stand outs.

Jon Baird directs with so much manic energy the film keeps threatening to derail (and not every scene works, some hitting the metaphors and symbols way too on the nose). But Baird just manages to keep it together enough so that the wretched excess in this story of a detective who will stomp on everyone around himself in hopes of getting a promotion works as a sort of Brecht on acid character study, and not a student film gone wrong (though it gets close at moments).

Not the sort of film to see if you're feeling cranky and critical, but if you want to watch a young(ish) director and some excellent actors push the limits as they look inside the heart of darkness until you don't know whether to laugh or turn away, you could do a lot worse than "Filth".
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on 11 October 2013
This is another film adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel that was referred to as "unfilmable", although when reading the book when it first came out I for one was struck by the tightness of the narrative and the cinema-friendly focus on a single protagonist.

The antihero in question is Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), a dodgy copper trying to make the most of a promotion opportunity by ruining his rivals through a series of cruel intricate schemes. Meanwhile, his mind is deteriorating, and he's haunted by flashbacks, waking dreams, and humanoid livestock. The film is fairly faithful to the source, and the changes (including some understandably blunted edges) are down to the different artform.

Irvine Welsh has said that McAvoy's performance is better than De Niro's in Taxi Driver. I don't think this is a suitable comparison. Scorsese's seminal feature was about a post-traumatic depression, whereas Jon S. Baird's film is more manic. For me, the film Filth most resembles is A Clockwork Orange. Like Kubrick's masterpiece, the entire aesthetic is informed by the subjectivity of the central character. And there are subtler nods: the use of classical music, the bleached windows, Jim Broadbent's reinvention of the Deltoid character (a probation officer then, a psychiatrist now), and the visual reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Before the film's release, I wasn't convinced by the casting of McAvoy, but after watching it I can safely say he's transformative - to capture such bipolar savagery and the fear in a single facial expression is the sign of a special performance. The supporting cast provides a colourful blend of caricatures. Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan and Imogen Poots all make an impact in the few moments when McAvoy isn't dominating the screen.

For me, the dud notes concern the tone of the film. Sometimes Baird's shifts between the schizoid black comedy of Robertson's outbursts and his introspective guilt about his past are so sudden and sentimental that their capacity to convince is lost in the (lack of) transition. Part of this is down to Clint Mansell's disappointingly soft score, whose tinkly piano and lifeless strings often feel incongruous, more awkward than deliberate.

But these minor issues don't detract from a powerful, funny, and finally moving depiction of mental disintegration. To say that it's the best Welsh adaptation since Trainspotting may not be saying much - so I'll say instead that it's a very good film in its own right.
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on 9 March 2014
What begins as a humorous insight into police corruption in the Edinburgh police force, as well as the social climbing and backstabbing (known as the games) slowly descends into a frank look at the psychological breakdown of the protagonist. Containing a lot of sex, bad language and black humour, this might not be everyone's cup of tea. However, for those that are willing to take the story on its own merits this is an extremly entertaining drug-fuelled romp through the lives of the many flawed individuals that make up the cast of Filth. Special mention has to go to James McAvoy, a gripping performance of a man that despite being an awful person somehow you can't help but root for him, and later feel sorry for him as he descends into depression and paranoia.
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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2014
I read the book, based on the preview of the film. I found the book to be an extremely good read, Robertson's character has a lot of depth in the book, the story lines intertwine very well and it works a treat.

The same sadly cannot be said of the film. The film is basic "Take the book and make Filth for Dummies"! The story line is simplified and reordered in an attempt to make an interesting psychological drama about someone slowly losing their mind, a sort of The Wall meets Singing Detective, it doesn't work very well. I think James McAvoy is very well cast, he plays Robertson exactly as I pictured him but sadly limited to a 90 min window. The film basically extracts some of the shock value from the book and tags on a story line.

In the book it's a black guy who's killed and the murder plays very central thread in the plot, that's been changed. In the book BR and Blades go to Amsterdam for a week and Robertson really shows himself for what he is. The book shows that Robertson was once good and occasionally that comes out but he's a twisted nasty bully in the book, in the film his simply portrayed as a lovable rogue gone mental through stress.

I enjoyed the film, some good laughs it was interesting to see some of the scenes played out but it's basically a rag-tag bag of skits from the book strung together.

If you haven't read the book, order it now I promise you will enjoy it far more than the film.
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on 10 May 2014
This film leaves you guessing the whole way though never really getting a full grasp on McAvoy's character. Brilliant. A must buy, independent films are taking over and finally getting the credit they deserve.
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on 6 October 2013
This film, whilst having occasional moments that are genuinely witty and funny, is not a comedy. This is a crucial distinction to make, as the trailers and posters are billing it as such. It is actually a very sad, honest and truthful film about a man, with a mental condition, having a complete breakdown.

The film begins with the unkempt and repellent Scottish Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) informing us in one of the film's many fourth-wall-breaking episodes that he wants the new staff promotion that's in the running, and he is going to play each contender off each other so that he ends up with the title Inspector. So far, so In-Bruges-lite black comedy, with a very antiheroic antihero. But it's not long before Bruce has descended into a dark, Scottish vision of hell involving underage sex, copious drug use, tapeworms, Jim Broadbent with a huge head, and dirty phone-calls with the woman who played Moaning Myrtle, and the comedy is there no more.

And so the film goes on, and on, and by the end I found myself crying. At some point, the film became something tragic, and I found myself touched and saddened; this kind of thing happens every day, with people, and it isn't very funny at all. Bruce is trapped in a vicious cycle of behaviour that isn't really his fault, but is entirely his own making. He is horrible, abusive and violent to people, but all of a sudden something happens and he's in tears. He's standing on his best mate's glasses and trashing an art museum, but then, suddenly he's trying to save the life of a man in the street. You might argue that this is the film tonally pulling itself apart, but these patterns and behaviours are true to life.

In the end, the film does a very tricky thing. It begins by creating a loathsome creature of a man, and in the end we feel deeply sorry for him. This is a man who is messed up, and far beyond help. McAvoy does a heart-rending job of bringing him to life, and his performance deserves to be commended. Jon S. Baird keeps a heavy hand on things and makes the film his own, despite imbuing the film with obvious yet justified nods to Kubrick, Lynch, Cronenberg, Refn, et al, and his script gets the balance just right between gonzo weird-ness and not letting us forget that there is a very sad person at the centre of all this mayhem. The supporting cast do effective work also, with Imogen Poots, Broadbent, Jamie Bell and numerous others filling their roles nicely. But this is McAvoy's show. He has created Robertson from the ground up, and it is clear that he understands him; the desperation is almost palpable in some scenes near the end.

All in all, it's not an easy watch, and I doubt I'll watch it again soon in the near future. But this is one of the surprises of the year, and it is an important film that, somewhere lurking amongst the taboos and reprehensible behaviour, has a cracked, bleeding heart; but a heart all the same.
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on 11 October 2014
The title of this film tells you exactly what it is about, and Filth it indeed is.
Despite what I felt to be some crucial and disappointing deviations from the book (principally at the start and no inclusion of a parasite apart from in a deleted scene), the majority of the film seems to stay true and is still hugely entertaining, and at times moving.
Never has a film made me want to pack in my job and become a drug-addicted, bent Scottish copper more than this. I've still not figured out how I came to love (who in theory should be) such a loathsome main character.
The film is not exactly the Filth that is the book, and has improved on some aspects to the detriment of others, but what you get left with is still what I thought to be an incredibly entertaining and well-made film that is nearly absolute Filth.
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on 1 March 2014
If you're part of that large and vocal community who thinks that there's too much political correctness about these days, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is the man for you. Nothing of the Guardian reader about DS Robertson, as his views on race, women and homosexuality illustrate. He rails against "airy-fairy, namby-pamby, care-in-the-community, human resources, left-wing bulls&*@". He's hard-drinking, drug-taking and womanising - and he's determined to get promotion.
So far as he's concerned, he towers above his rivals, who, in his view, are either the wrong sex, have the wrong sexual orientation, come from the wrong side of the religious divide, are inadequately endowed or are too stupid - although, as he puts it, "When did a single-figure IQ hold anybody back in the police force?"
It's all a game to him, and as with any game, "same rules apply". These rules include backstabbing and seeking whatever way you can to humiliate your opponents. But as he finally admits, he's as scared of the world as anyone else: "I just don't let people see it....that's what the games are."
Set in Edinburgh and based on an Irvine Welsh novel, this was never going to be an Oor Wullie and The Broons view of Scotland; it gets as dark as you would expect and treads a fine line between comedy and tragedy. I must admit to my own prejudice: that James McAvoy can do no wrong. His portrayal of a self-deluding man who is in freefall and who misses out on his only chance of redemption is up there with anything he's done. Great performances, too, from Jamie Bell as comparative rookie detective Ray Lennox and Eddie Marsan as nerdy accountant Clifford Blades, who has an opposites-attract friendship with Robertson.
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