Filth – Review (Spoiler Free)

McAvoy is electrifying in what’s otherwise a thoroughly rancid and unruly film…

It’s amazing what talented actors can do for a film. This is a tonally uneven, badly scripted and rather vile film that plunges into its nihilistic cravings with gleeful abandon, and if it weren’t for McAvoy’s fearless performance and the efforts put in by his costars it would be completely unwatchable. McAvoy plays a policeman who is gunning for a promotion, not by solving a pressing murder case, but by undermining his colleagues. This is a man who isn’t above blackmailing underage girls into sex and ripping apart his colleagues’ lives in order to get what he wants. He is exactly the kind of man we would call the police about, if it weren’t for the fact that he is a prominent member of the force.

One way of summarising Filth  would be to say it is the uninspired lovechild of Trainspotting (another Irvine Welsh adaptation) and A Clockwork Orange, where the former has the intelligence and humanity taken out of its treatment of the Scottish underworld and in its place has the latter’s nasty and exploitative violence injected in. Filth is out of control with a broken screenplay that noticed just how effective Trainspotting‘s excessive moments of sex and drugs were and decided to write a screenplay chock-full of such moments without letting them have room to breathe. The film lurches from one explicit/unpleasant scene to another without actually tying them together with any sort of meaningful character development or plot. The initial Machiavellian plot of ousting competitors for a promotion starts out as pretty interesting but quickly gets buried beneath a pile of cinematic mucus which it can’t shake off. Ultimately this is shock for shock’s sake rather than the intriguing character study which it could have been.

As the film progresses we move further and further away from the ‘real world’ and more and more inside the head of our lead, and that’s a dangerous place to be. Bruce hallucinates his way through a fair portion of the film and this is where the screenplay looses control of the film. It’s hard to depict any form of insanity from the perspective of the one affected without the film either becoming incomprehensible or worse yet unbelievable, and Filth manages to fall into both camps. It loses the plot without painting either a meaningful or a very disciplined portrait of madness and substance intake, and that is its greatest failing.

During the course of the film you’re unwittingly swept along by McAvoy’s performance as you wonder what new level of depravity and insanity his character will sink to. The actor somehow manages to bring a strange sense of charm and empathy to the monster he is portraying, and although the film never challenges us by asking us to understand and accept him, through McAvoy’s efforts we have some connection to him which keeps us going throughout the course of the film. He isn’t enough to be able to save the film but it’s extremely exciting to see him throw caution to the wind and tackle something like this. In fact despite how much I didn’t like the film it was worth seeing Filth in order to develop a greater appreciation for the talent of James McAvoy and to become excited about his future projects.


What is the film’s greatest strength? That’s easy, James McAvoy is fantastic.

Its greatest weakness? The screenplay needed a lot of work.

Would I see it again? No, I think once was enough.

Thanks for reading, please do let your thoughts loose in the comment box below!


  1. This was a pretty crazy movie. But above it all was McAvoy, who showed the world that he’s more than just a pretty face and is even willing to mess that dirty face up if he wants to. Nice review Rumsey.

    1. Thanks Dan. Yeah it was a good role for McAvoy to take, just a shame the film itself wasn’t better!

  2. Yeah, I think I’ll skip this one…

    Great review, though – with some nice turns of phrase. I particularly like, if that’s the word, ‘cinematic mucus’!

    1. Thanks Chris, I had fun with some of my phrasing here!

  3. I liked this a lot more than you did but I guess I got swept up in McAvoy.

    1. Haha fair enough! I just didn’t like it much at all, except McAvoy of course!

  4. Great work James, sorry to hear you didn’t like this more. I am a big fan of this, had an absolute blast watching it and McAvoy was simply astounding.

    1. Yeah I know a lot of people who loved it but I just wasn’t one of them! I’ll agree with you on McAvoy though!

      1. Definitely not a film that is going to work for everyone though, it is out there and icky (but worked for me lol).

        1. Haha that’s fair enough! I figured I might be in a bit of a minority on this one!

  5. I’m a big fan of this James. And if your familiar with Irvine Welsh’s source novel, you’ll notice who good an adaptation it is. It’s a book that vile and depraved and almost unclimbable. I’m actually surprised how well they done.
    Totally with you on McAvoy, though. He was absolutely superb and awards worthy in my eyes. DiCaprio played a similar role in Wolf of Wall Street yet McAvoy just got ignored for his work here.

    1. Yeah I actually said to my girlfriend this is McAvoy’s Wolf of Wall Street!
      The only Welsh novel I have read is Trainspotting which I adore but I just felt this was too thinly drawn. The twist seemed a little weak.

      I am interested in reading the novel now though considering you say it is so similar ad because you like it… it would be interesting to read and compare.

      1. It’s a very tough novel to get through to be honest. I liked it (because I’m a big Welsh fan and really get his brand of humour) but it’s a hard book to recommend.

        1. Hmm I am willing to give it a shot because of how much I like Trainspotting. That took some work just to get through as well.

          1. Do you know that Trainspotting has a prequel and sequel? … Skagboys and Porno respectively. With all the same characters.

          2. Yeah I know of them… in fact isn’t there talk of them adapting Porno as a film?
            Do you recommend the two books?

          3. Yeah, Porno is supposed to reach our screens next year but I haven’t heard of any further updates.

            Skagboys is a bit of a slog on the Trainspotting boys in their youth. Great moments though.

            Porno focuses more on Sickboy and his foray into the porn industry. I really enjoyed that, despite Sickboy being one of my least favourite characters. Two great addition to the overall life story of these colourful characters though.

          4. Porno does sound particularly interesting… plus they are probably pretty good introductions to more of his work considering I like the original novel.

  6. Interesting review, definitely sounds like one dirty movie.

    1. It is, although most people seem to have liked it!

  7. I’m a big fan of the book and really enjoyed the film. I thought it was a good adaptation of a very tricky book. The book remains far superior but as someone felt they had to film it, this was a pretty good effort.

  8. I personally did not like the film but your review was really good

    1. Yeah I didn’t like it much either.
      What did you think of McAvoy?

      1. He was brilliant as always, very convincing

        1. Yeah, a lot better than the film itself!

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