Customer Review

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Different Rules Apply!, 15 Feb 2014
This review is from: Filth [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
I have just watched the DVD after recently re-reading the book for the first time in about 10 years.

First of all I will say, I was not disappointed with James McAvoy's take on the character of Bruce Robertson - when he was cast I was kind of on the fence - while McAvoy is a very great actor, I've followed his career since Shameless (when it was good!) I thought he was a little clean-cut - I'd always imagined the actor to play Bruce would be a little older, and somehow more grubby and weathered looking, however with the aid of a little makeup and a nice ginger beard, McAvoy succeeds in aging himself a good ten years and achieving the full, seedy, effect.

What can be said about Filth? It's the story of a corrupt and sordid detective sergeant in Leigh CID, addicted to booze, drugs and sex - obsessed with the prospect of being promoted to detective inspector, and quite possibly suffering from Bipolar. Bruce Robertson is willing to tread on and manipulate anybody to achieve his own personal gratification - oh and yes, he is supposed to be the lead officer, solving the murder of a Chinese tourist (in the book, he was an African, I've no idea why this was changed).

On the back of only just re-reading the novel I was prepared for some condensation - there are certain aspects of the book that would be hard to imagine translating to screen - the Tapeworm for instance (basically in the book, Bruce becomes host to a Tapeworm living inside of him due to poor diet and hygiene, the Tapeworm talks to the reader through a large portion of the book, filling in the blanks of Bruce's backstory) however I was not prepared for how simplified the film was going to be.

While the Tapeworm is hinted at in the film, the roll is largely taken over by Bruce's hallucinations of his Doctor. Okay, I can accept this, however, I do feel that too many subplots are left out of the film - Bruce and Blade's holiday to Amsterdam (in the film Hamburg) for instance; I really did expect that to be the highlight of the film, but it is so underplayed - in the book, as soon as Bruce's commanding officer, Toal, mentions all leave is suspended, Bruce goes into meltdown and has to pull out all the stops in terms of manipulation (or as he calls it "The Games") in order to get this reversed, while still coming out looking like the dedicated policeman, desperately in need of a break, and grudgingly accepting. In the film, Toal simply announces that political interest in the case has died down and feel free.

Okay, fair enough, but then we get to the holiday itself - in the book the Amsterdam holiday really shows the depths of Bruce's depravity and sexual perversion, he indulges in everything; in the novel its on a plane with blades, a quick drink and a screw (and also spiking Blades drink with E's, causing him to have some sort of fit, for no real reason) then right back on the plane - what I expected to take up a good half hour of the film was over in five minutes!

Other important sub plots are frustratingly hinted on, but not explained enough to make anyone, but people who have read the book, aware of what's going on:

Firstly Bruce's back story - in the book it turns out his father hated him because he was not his real son; Bruce was conceived when his mother was raped by a sex maniac roaming the streets at the time, as she was a strict catholic, she believed she had to keep the baby, Bruce's (now step) father grudgingly agreed - Bruce later visits his real father in prison and beats him half to death. The only hint we ever get that Bruce had any conflict with his dad was when he walks into the florist and sees a Reith spelling "Dad" which he looks at solemnly for a few seconds.

Bruce's brother Davey - Bruce sees his coal dust covered younger brother in hallucinations a few times in the film, but I don't feel this was properly explained - while Bruce and Davy were playing as kids, Bruce pushed Davey off a pile of coal, inadvertently burying him alive, when the pile fell on top of him - serving to much further fuel his stepfathers hatred of him - I felt this story had to be told fully or not at all.

Toal's writing career - at the start of the film it is slipped in that Toal is an aspiring writer, then forgotten about, total throw-away. In the book, Bruce sneaks into the station, and steals Toal's nearly completed film screen-play, and burns it, causing huge depression to Toal. Fair enough, not very relevant to the plot, but either leave it in or forget about it for the film.

And finally the fact that Bruce actually murdered the man whose death the police are trying to solve just because he was black - at some stage Bruce's wife had an affair with an African man, said she loved him and left. Bruce the whole way through is trying to give the impression she has only just gone, but in actual fact it could be months or years. Bruce attempted to "keep her close" by dressing up as her Norman Bates style, as we find out in the latter half of the story. The fact the murder victim was changed to a man of Chinese origin totally ruined this plot point in my eyes and again didn't make it obvious to none-readers of the book, what was going on at all.

There are good points to the films story changes though, particularly near the end - the book in the last quarter became disjointed (Welsh's attempt to reflect Bruce's growing decline) the first 250 pages is total page turning stuff, then it becomes slower, and truth be told a little boring and hard to pay attention to - the film summarises Bruce's downfall nicely.

There is the nice touch of the tape recording to Blades, with much needed advice and warmth from Bruce - it always seemed a little cold in the book that Bruce discarded Blades when he had served his purpose - it was just too harsh.

Then the suicide scene is made much more comfortable and sits a lot better - in the book Bruce intends to hang himself just as his wife and maybe his daughter are entering the house, in the film he is resolved to do it anyway and the fact they ring the door bell, but never come in makes it a lot more palatable.

All in all, its not a bad film, and the acting is brilliant, especially from McAvoy, but to get the true Filth experience, read the book - I kid you not, my sweet, sweet friends!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Feb 2014 13:29:40 GMT
K Murray says:
Great review.

IMO this film should never have been made. The book allows for character development. The film just feels rushed and without wanting to repeat your review leaves out so much of the back story and depth that it is not worth it.

Some scenes work and amuse a little, but overall it just doesn't work.

Be interesting to see how many of the 4 or 5 star reviewers have read the book.

Only thing I disagree on with this review is the rating, 2 stars for me at best.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2014 15:10:55 BDT
J. Mahony says:
Yeah, I guessed my review would be unpopular - people who have only seen the film will think it is the best thing since sliced bread, because filth, however watered down, is a very good story. People just don't know what they are missing out on.

A second viewing hasn't improved my opinion of it, in fact I've noticed something else which is irritating.:

At the end of the story in the book, Bruce loses his chances of promotion, due to been caught in his wife's clobber, over the body of a violent criminal, fair enough, this is the ultimate in soul destruction for Bruce. Toal visits his house, delivers the bad news and basically asks him to hang in there while they arrange counselling etc as by this time, it's obvious to all that he's got a screw loose.

In the film, not only does all this happen, but Toal instead of arranging counselling, kicks him when he's down and demotes him back into uniform. Why??! I can't see any modern police force, pushing an officer, obviously over the edge already, even more so. It's just so unrealistic and wouldn't happen.

The only reason I can think of that this was done, was so we could see Bruce briefly in a Police uniform, so the film would have some tie in to the Film poster / DVD cover.

No I have to say, similar to the new Sweeney movie, I waited years for this film since first announcement, and they were both disappointing.
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