James McAvoy As A Creep? In 'Filth,' The Anti-Typecasting Works | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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

Former Basketball Player Scores As A Filmmaker

While Deon Taylor was playing professional basketball in Germany, he had an epiphany: he wanted to make movies. The self-taught director's latest film, Supremacy, was released this Friday.
NPR

Surströmming Revisited: Eating Sweden's Famously Stinky Fish

Sweden has the distinction of producing surströmming, one of the foulest-smelling foods in the world. More than a decade ago, NPR's Ari Shapiro tried eating it and failed. It's time for a rematch.
NPR

What Romney's Retreat Means For GOP Hopefuls

NPR's Scott Simon speaks with senior Washington editor Ron Elving about the narrowing Republican presidential field for 2016 and what we've seen so far in the first month of the new Congress.
NPR

The Infinite Whiteness Of Public Radio Voices

The hashtag #publicradiovoices, about the "whiteness" of public radio, trended on Twitter this week. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Gene Demby of NPR's Code Switch team about the conversation.

Leave a Comment

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