Friday, 14 February 2014

"Filth" - A Review Of The 2013 Film Now On BLU RAY.

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"…I Just Wanted To Say Thanks…"

Bravely Produced by Trudy Styler and Written & Directed with panache by Jon S. Baird (adapted from Irvine Welsh’s 2008 book) – "Filth" comes at you like a freight train with a bulldog strapped to its front that hasn’t eaten for four days.

Principal lead actor James McAvoy returns to his Scottish roots to play Bruce Robertson – a hideously arrogant scheming misogynistic chauvinistic detective in the Lothian Borders Police force (it was filmed mostly in Glasgow and Edinburgh with some scenes in Germany). As Bruce sits in his Police debriefing room – we get a running commentary from his twisted and vicious mind about the general uselessness of the work colleagues who surround him – each of which he’s going to royally shaft in order to achieve a promotion (even if some of them view him as a best friend).

There’s his young but still-learning partner in drug-busts Jamie Bell (a man with a challenged appendage in his trouser area and a serious Charly infatuation in his nasal cavities), Emun Elliott as a copper who has questionable sexual preferences (for Scotland that is), the pretty but snootily aloof Imogen Poots whose a lot more savvied than the men think and Gary Lewis as the amiable but rather clueless bobby on the beat and all-round good egg and family man. This seemingly hapless bunch are all overseen by John Sessions as police chief Bob Toal – a winging-it buffoon who would prefer to be suckering up to the literary set at the local Mason’s Lodge (superb performance from Sessions).

The story goes like this… A gang of thugs has murdered a young Japanese student in an underpass and whoever solves the case – gets the leg up the ladder. But what Bruce was once good at (detecting crime) now seems to elude him because he’s on a twitching hallucinogenic slide into mental and physical madness. His working day consists of snorting copious amounts of cocaine in the toilets of strip bars - swigging whiskey is his car from a polystyrene cup - masturbating to dirty videos in his unkempt alcoholic’s flat - eating junk food on the go and last thing at night making obscene phonecalls to the frustrated wife of one of his workmates (a fantastic performance by Shirley Henderson as Bunty). He’s even having kinky suffocation sex with the wife of a soppy bifocal accountant he’s befriended at the Lodge (yet another stunning scene-stealing turn by Eddie Marsan). Jim Broadbent is his Doctor prescribing him with ever more powerful tranquilisers but in his increasingly encroaching visions becomes a hideous physiatrist from a Doctor Who set with a protracted head and images of tapeworms on his office walls…

As you can imagine this river of human nastiness, untamed debauchery and society miscreants makes "Filth" all a bit hard to take – so why bother? Because both Welsh and Baird are better writers than that – they’ve imbibed their characters with back-stories that make you care – especially when it comes to the lead character who features in almost every scene of a book they said was un-filmable. Sergeant Bruce keeps seeing the coal-covered ghost of his younger child-brother whom he couldn’t save – and images of his sexily dressed mid-30’s wife (Shauna MacDonald) saying how great their love life is – when you suspect that she’s up and left and taken their 6-year old daughter with her. Inside Bruce is a river of rage and hurt that’s hurtling towards the precipice – and as he seems unable to stop - he simply blitzes those feelings away with a tide of narcotics.

A word has to be said about James McAvoy – his performance in “Filth” is magnificent in every sense of the word - wholly believable - and should have been Oscar-nominated despite the dark nature of the material. He portrays his character with full-on commitment. Bruce is in control one moment - scared shitless the next – tender in an instant to one woman then needlessly cruel to another. "Filth" is also very, very funny in a hugely un-PC kind of way – a rare and precious thing in films nowadays – and unashamed about it too. The talk John Sessions has with McAvoy about the Nancy-boy sexual orientation of one of his officers ("This Is Scotland for Gawd's sake!") and the scene where Eddie Marsan’s mild-mannered character gets slipped some speed in his lager in a nightclub is the kind of darkly brilliant stuff that will almost certainly develop cult status. And on it goes to more violence and more betrayal and more transgender jiggery-pokery…

But if was to nail one bit in the whole movie that shows how good the acting chops and writing is... There’s a scene where Bruce is exiting a florist and literally bumps into Mary – the widowed wife of a man Bruce tried to resuscitate in the street when everyone looked on and filmed his dying on their smartphones. Seconds earlier Bruce was physically and mentally vicious to a large sales girl inside the flower shop (pumping her on info about the murder) – but outside – he’s transformed. He recognizes Mary and knows that look on her face - her senseless and cruel loss bubbling under the veneer (a lovely turn by Joanne Froggatt who plays Anna Bates the ladies maid to Lady Mary in Downton Abbey). Suddenly his own pain surfaces and tears fill his eyes as she asks after him and thanks him for his kindness on the street that day. There are few actors who could portray such extremes so convincingly – where you can literally feel his hurt and devastation exuding through his pours and his subsequent need to get blasted again. My only misgiving is with the slightly jarrring and confusing ending - I would have preferreed it to have been more upbeat...

The BLU RAY image is a tale of two stories. In order to keep with the down and gritty feel of the drugs scene – the indoor shots are fast and suitably grainy – while the outside shots of the streets are immaculately HD. But the film is travelling so fast and the dialogue so filled with fire and expletives – "Filth" is not the kind of movie where picture quality is on your mind – ever.

The extras are good. There’s a feature-length Audio Commentary by Scottish Writer/Director Jon S. Baird, interviews with James McAvoy (10 minutes), Jon S. Baird (10 minutes) and Irvine Welsh (21 minutes), 4 Deleted Scenes, 7 Extended Scenes and a large number of very funny and informative outtakes featuring most of the actors and even Irvine Welsh as a reporter.

"Filth" won’t be everyone’s idea of a floral arrangement on Valentine’s Day and that’s for sure - but it’s a thoroughly ballsy British film, a brilliantly written and sublimely acted out parable that will stick in your craw for weeks after. Kudos to all who got it made and proof positive that Ireland, England and Scotland can produce world-class movies and actors who can roll with the very best of them.

Amazing and then some...

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