00:00 June 19, 2014
By: Greg Roques
[Courtesy of Lionsgate]

** out of **** Filth is one of those frustrating movies that start off so engaging and clever, just to let all the build up come crashing down in the final act. While disappointing, this didn't come as a surprise. I say disappointing because the film is adapted from a novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Irvine Welsh. Anyone who has read Welsh is familiar with the drug-fueled, schizophrenic, tectonic rupture from reality that are his books. That said, it's nearly impossible to imagine his stories on the screen, much less anywhere outside the mind of someone not in a straight jacket. However, ever since Danny Boyle's success adapting Trainspotting (1996) into a cult phenomenon, many have tried (1998's The Acid House and 2011's Ecstasy) with disastrous results. Filth, unfortunately, fails to quell the trend.

The film begins with Scottish detective Bruce (James McAvoy), as he cons his fellow officers in an effort to propel his standing for an upcoming promotion. Some of his pranks are laugh-out-loud hilarious, like a game fabricated at an office party to humiliate his partner. However, the humor fades as Bruce's mischief slowly deteriorates into paranoia driven sadism. Bits and pieces of Bruce's past are revealed in hallucinatory sessions with a crazed therapist who feeds him giant pills, and through intermittent monologues delivered by what - at first - appears to be his ex-wife posing as a prostitue. As his fugue with reality further fractures, Bruce's peers often appear to him having menacing animal heads that look like left over props from Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" video. By this point, what little you are able to follow of the plot just melts into by-the-books banality.

One thing that really struck me as, well, dumb, was that at the end his fellow officers discover him for the pill scarfing, coke inhaling, coworker-wife-banging, dissociative identity disorder afflicted degenerate that he really is…and he gets a demotion? No rehab, no jail time, no psychiatric observation - a demotion. It's no wonder Scotland's streets are crawling with murderous gangs in this film with such outstanding officers of the law on the job.

What does work is McAvoy. Even as the rest of the film disintegrates into unintelligible insanity around him, his brilliantly perverse performance keeps you locked in. Despite everything, he makes you wish for a happy ending for Bruce. Sadly, his ending here just feels like a cop out.

Though short-lived in the states, Filth is currently playing On Demand and is also available to rent through Amazon Prime while still playing in select cities.

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