Sex, drugs, excessive smoking and alcohol – actually a vulgar amount of each. A self-indulgent destructive lifestyle synonymous with all things rock n roll, except this is the life of Scottish detective sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy). A man so repulsive you struggle to spare even the slightest sympathy as you see his mental and physical destruction unfold before your eyes. Bruce concocts a disgraceful plan to shame his co-workers for the promotion of detective inspector. The task is to solve a murder case, to prove his worth. No mercy, no restraint.
But as with all ‘villains’ there is a much deeper and somber back story. A haunting echo of past mistakes, that consumes the conscious to the point of surrendering to destruction. Bruce may well brag about his oh so active sex-life with his beautiful and understanding wife, while shamelessly chasing every willing skirt. Only seeing obscure scenes where she addresses the camera face on, you don’t need much to know something is very wrong. Bruce suffers from horrendous hallucinations, no thanks to his substance abuse, indulging this deeply disturbed individual. He sees his psychiatrist, Dr. Rossi (Jim Broadbent) or what he perceive to be as such, that comes across as more of a mad scientist.
Among all the vulgarities, you do find a glimmer of the former Bruce, when he desperately tries to revive the husband of a young mother, while getting flashes of a young boy as he does so. It’s this boy that haunts his conscious. Although he was unsuccessful, the mother thanked him for showing compassion while others merely stood by. She brings her young son to the station to show him who tried to save his daddy, handing Bruce a hand knit scarf, that’s ultimately used for a tragic end.
He displays a moment of such raw vulnerability to Acting DI Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots) admitting that’s there’s something very wrong with him, and not being aware as to why his wife and daughter have left him or even when. This is short lived and he storms off to solve the case, revealing a very unexpected and daggering twist.
In the end Bruce’s leaves his only friend Clifford Blades (Eddie Marsan), an apology tape, for all the ill he has done, then breaks the forth wall by looking in camera repeating the word “Same rules apply”.
The film is based on an Irvine Welsh by the same title. And judging by its content it could well be rated R. What Jon S. Baird manages to do so well is evoke complete disorientation and nausea, enabling a sense of understanding with what Bruce is going through. So be aware that it’s not an easy watch. It often feels like you are experiencing a really bad trip unable to escape a sinister atmosphere. A proper complex and undoubtedly challenging script, which the actors managed to, do justice. It consists of many characters that most actors would relish to play especially that of Bruce. McAvoy’s performance is so convincing, it’s uncanny. The supporting cast doesn’t lack in the least. At first however you feel a bit impatient with the tempo, but as things escalate you actually welcome the slower moments.
Visually it aids to that horrible taste in your mouth, with a fitting colour palette that jumps from cold blues, charcoal and grays, to sharp whites and worn brick, auburn, amber and flame. What does raise a question is, is it meant to be a dark comedy? Supposedly yes, but it lacks in the humorous side, of perhaps it requires an equally twisted sense of humor, to be able to view it as such. Baird and Welsh share a love for what can be compared to an acid infused atmosphere. Definitely catering for a non-commercial audience.
If you can stomach the ribald content, you’ll be able to appreciate Filth for what it is and then never watch it again.