Another of Irvine Welsh’s bleak yet sickly humorous novels about life in Scotland turned into a film, much like the heralded Trainspotting. However, unlike Trainspotting, which arrived on these shores with the accolades it so richly deserved, Filth is not as rich with character study, humor and social critiquing; rather, this is more akin to the other works of Welsh, like The Acid House – it’s a bleak look at depravity in Scotland, this time seen through the eyes of a police detective who harbors career ambition while equally having some disturbingly deep, dark secrets.
What makes it a loss is that the film’s lead, Detective Sgt. Bruce Robertson is played, quite convincingly, by the brilliant James McAvoy. His performance is stellar and riveting; he does carry this movie single-handedly. But that’s it – McAvoy is left to carry the movie and considering some of the very fine actors that are in this film with him – Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan, Shirley Henderson, Jamie Bell – it’s surprising how unconvincing their performances are and how mis-aligned with McAvoy’s character they are. Somehow, something was lost in the writing of this script – I remember the book being laugh-ou-loud funny; this movie was ripe with predictably smutty humor and non-titillating shock value. And no matter what, there’s no connection to the lead character. You don’t feel sympathy, empathy – anything for him.
While it was entertaining, all in all, it didn’t make me laugh as I’d hoped it would. If anything, it would have been better suited as a straight psychodrama. Filth isn’t filthy – just a little draggy.