Filed Under:

James McAvoy As A Creep? In 'Filth,' The Anti-Typecasting Works

Play associated audio

Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) swaggers down the street at the start of Filth swiping balloons from children, ogling their mothers, flipping off foreigners and smirking as he ticks down a list of what makes Scotland a place where he feels he can be cock-of-the-walk.

"This nation brought the world television, the steam engine, golf, whiskey, penicillin and, of course, the deep-fried Mars bar," he snorts. "We're such a uniquely successful race."

He's the kind of soulless, racist, drug-and-alcohol-addled operator you might call the police to protect you from. Except he is the police — a homicide detective who's angling for a promotion to detective inspector, convinced that this will bring his wife back, even as he's whoring around with the wives of his colleagues.

As he angles for that promotion, of course, Robertson's got little time for actual police business. There's so much undercutting of his competition to do, whether he's getting a teetotaler drunk, or hiring someone to make a fastidious colleague seem gay, or embarrassing a guy who feels sexually inadequate by suggesting, at an office party, a full-frontal variation on that photocopy-your-butt prank.

McAvoy, looking puffy, eyes perpetually glazed, plays this creep with enough foul-mouthed sleaze to be thoroughly off-putting. I had a hard time finding dialogue to quote that wouldn't have to be bleeped in the radio version of this piece, and language is, in many senses, the least of the film's transgressions. Filth is based on a novel by Irvine Welsh — who also wrote the profane, drug-fueled epic Trainspotting — and though this story's been sweetened a bit for the screen, it sometimes feels equally unsavory.

Other times, it just seems as if writer/director Jon S. Baird is playing around with moviemaking jokes — say, by casting Jamie Bell and Gary Lewis (who played dancer Billy Elliott and his dad, respectively, 13 years ago) as two of the cops Robertson is hell-bent on sabotaging; or by staging some Terry Gilliam-style hallucinations featuring animal masks and a pill-pushing, Christmas-caroling Jim Broadbent.

As intriguing as it is to watch McAvoy getting uncharacteristically down and dirty — and he's almost alarmingly good at it — the film gets emotionally squishy as it heads into its final reel, with perhaps a few more behavior-explaining revelations than it really needs. But credit the filmmakers with descending persuasively into the swampy squalor of a diseased mind. If you're in the mood to go there with them, Filth offers an indecently bracing wallow.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Lisa Lucas Takes The Reins At The National Book Foundation

Lucas is the third executive director in the history of the foundation, which runs the National Book Awards. Her priority? Inclusivity: "Everyone is either a reader or a potential reader," she says.
NPR

The Shocking Truth About America's Ethanol Law: It Doesn't Matter (For Now)

Ted Cruz doesn't like the law that requires the use of ethanol in gasoline. So what would happen if it was abolished? The surprising answer: not much, probably.
WAMU 88.5

The Latest on the Military, Political and Humanitarian Crises in Syria

Russia continues airstrikes in Syria. Secretary Kerry meets with world leaders in an attempt to resolve the country’s five-year civil war. A panel joins Diane to discuss the latest on the military, political and humanitarian crises facing Syria.

NPR

Twitter Tries A New Kind Of Timeline By Predicting What May Interest You

Twitter has struggled to attract new users. Its latest effort at rejuvenation is a new kind of timeline that predicts which older posts you might not want to miss and displays them on top.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.