You know you’re in trouble when the synopsis of a film’s plot talks about debauchery, sex, and drugs, and yet it opens with the cheery sounds of “Winter Wonderland.”
If you’ve ever seen the GIF of James McAvoy flipping two birds to a kid that just gave him one, promptly after releasing the kid’s balloon, then yes, you are already familiar with two seconds of the beginning of Filth. However, this is a film that, like its main character, deteriorates rather quickly, so you may not be laughing as much as you may think after the first few minutes are over.
Filth has the fast-paced humor element of Trainspotting, the corruption level element of In Bruges, and the who-the-fuck-am-I element of Fight Club all rolled together to make you feel, well, “filth-y” by the time the film concludes.
Bruce, our main character, is so deplorable that he almost makes us like McAvoy a little bit less - that’s probably a testament to how well McAvoy plays him. He’s crude, disgusting, manipulative and a complete wastrel of a human being. That’s it. If you’re expecting me to tell you that he has a change of heart at the end that completely validates his existence, well, that just doesn’t happen.
This pig enjoys such vile past-times as prank-calling his best friend’s wife (and then blaming it on said best friend later on) and manipulating everyone into playing an office party game in which the dudes take pictures of their penises, then the girls have to guess which penis belongs to which dude - only Bruce uses it to his advantage to pretend he has the largest penis in order to bang one of the girls in the office. Real winner, this guy. Oh, and he’s a cop seeking a promotion - did I forget to mention that?
The one thing Bruce is happy about and proud of is his Scottish heritage, though Scotland probably doesn’t return his sentiments.
If you have never seen McAvoy in a sex scene and you want to (be it with himself or someone else), then you’ll get everything you wished for and more here, but then you won’t be so sure anymore why you wished for it.
Of course, there’s the typical “he went through a major loss in his life and that’s why he’s so screwed up” plot point, but really, that’s not even half of enough of an excuse to explain why Bruce acts the way he does. His hallucinations that could be their own character, they show up so much in the film, get increasingly more strange, and when the explanation is finally offered, we understand, but we certainly don’t empathize.
**SPOILERIFIC ENDING HERE**
So Fight Club enters the fold when we see that Bruce has been cross-dressing as his wife in an attempt to “keep her close to him,” and that he witnessed the murder at the beginning of the film while dressed like her so he couldn’t report it to his department for fear of being found out. You mean to tell me that no one ever saw him out and about, dressed like this, and recognized him? He didn’t even bother to shave his face - just threw on a wig, and haphazardly at that.
I’m wondering if I read the book on which this film was based, which was written by Irvine Welsh, if I would understand and maybe even like the film, but I doubt it. Another critic put it perfectly when he said that Filth's title essentially sums up its plot, as well as how you feel by the time it’s finally over. It’s like A Clockwork Orange, if you stripped it of its cult status and took everything redeeming out of it.