Filth features excellent video and audio in this engrossing Blu-ray release.
For those unfamiliar with Actor James McAvoy beyond his portrayal of the young Charles Xavier in recent X-Men movies, it might come as a shock to view the movie poster for Filth, in which his character appears on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And although that’s a part of this engrossing thriller/dramedy/raunch-fest, Filth is so much more. Its release on Blu-ray gives us a second chance to discover both the range of McAvoy and the positive effect that creative talent can have on a previously untenable work.
Detective Bruce Robinson (James McAvoy) is a Scottish police detective who might be referred to as a ‘hater.’ Deeply judgmental and as crude as they come, he uses his badge to not only fight crime and save people but also as an excuse to do an insane amount of drugs, alcohol, and women. As a result, everyone seems to cower to his demands, whether it be for sexual favors or deferring to his sky-high confidence. But that is about to be shattered as he and a collection of less-deserving detectives including Det. Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots) vie for Detective Inspector, encouraging Bruce to set one against the other, all while defiling himself even more. But there’s a deeper reason behind his growing rage, which is realized by the idealistic vision of his wife Carole (Shauna McDonald) and a nightmarish version his shrink, Dr. Rossi (Jim Broadbent). As his world begins to spin out of control, Bruce must deal with demons far more powerful than any street thug, as the sorted details of his personal life eventually overtake him.
From the cool Professor Xavier in X-Men: First Class to the split-personality inside man in Trance, McAvoy is a top-flight actor who inhabits his roles as few can. In Filth, he makes you despise him one second, and then empathy towards his situation as he meets a young widow (Joanne Froggatt) and her son at the police station. Bruce’s eyes tell a deeper story of a man truly on the edge, and McAvoy shines in every way throughout Filth. Poots, not usually known for her bravado, makes an impact in her best role of 2014 as the straight-laced detective who seems to be the only person strong enough to stand up to Bruce’s growing violent tendencies. Others like Broadbent, Jamie Bell as Bruce’s partner, and Eddie Marsan as Bruce’s only friend are solid as well. Based on an Irvine Welsh novel, Baird pens the screenplay as a sort of rollercoaster ride we can’t – and don’t want to – get off, the evolving trainwreck layered on in thick sheets of grim until they become too much for Bruce to handle.
According to the director’s commentary, Welsh himself had final creative control over the film, and considering how low the book gets it’s refreshing to see Writer Baird successfully bring it to the big screen. This isn’t so much about finding the murderers of a young Japanese student or even the result of Bruce’s promotion hunting. Frankly, those subplots are nothing compared to the last 15 minutes, as Bruce’s inner rage and deep-seeded psychosis wreck themselves upon his life, leaving us to feel every moment as the film cuts to black – you’ll understand why when you see it.
Filth is certainly not for the faint of heart. Filled with sexual stylization, rabid drug use, and even a little BDSM thrown in for color, it will keep everything you have to get through it. But sick with it, for you’ll find yourself in an ever-increasing knot of lies, deceit, and serious mental instability that in the end is completely rewarding. Some of the drug use and drinking becomes a bit repetitive, but it’s more than forgivable considering the impact which Baird and McAvoy bring. It’s one of my favorite films of 2014.
The release by Magnolia Pictures features an exceptionally bright MPEG-4/AVC transfer that maintains Director Jon S. Baird’s and DOP Matthew Jensen’s original vision. Originally shot on film stock, then post-transferred and distributed digitally, the print retains enough grain without sacrificing a single shred of color or clarity. Starting with the latter, detail can be seen on everything from clothes to female skin and other ‘parts.’ Each strand of McAvoy’s gradually messed up hair can be seen, as well as his obvious transition from top cop to a drugged-out failure. But as gritty and realistic are these features, it’s the color palette which stands out most of the time. ‘Colorful’ isn’t the word here, as Filth celebrates its over-saturated tones like a hooker parades her flesh throughout this picture. Everything stands out, from McAvoy’s blue eyes to his red beard. Looking a lot like a Stanley Kubrick film – which we learn was a major influence from the commentary – nothing here ‘looks’ standard. Man-made structures, cars, and interiors are all tweaked up, which provides a sumptuous look to Edinburgh and Hamburg. This color scaling gets punched up a notch when Bruce imagines his sessions with the ‘big head’ Dr. Rossi, as if we too are suffering from the mother of all acid trips. His world is centered around fast times and fast women, and Magnolia’s transfer celebrates every aspect of his demented environment. While not the best transfer of the year (that goes to either Need for Speed or Disneynature’s Bears), Filth benefits from a first-rate effort that revels in its efforts to be different.
Filth is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that is also anything but ordinary. As we dive deeper into Bruce’s world, the lossless track takes us on a journey of coke binges, sexual intercourse, and fast edits with ease. There are scenes in which Bruce suddenly suffers startling hallucinations of animals, and here the track jolts us with effects that lend greater impact to the story. Before I begin about the technical aspects of this release, it must be mentioned that dialogue here is distinctly Scottish, which will require you to pay attention a tad more than normal. My suggestion is to add the subtitles until you get used to the accents – this will vastly improve your experience. Now, on to the specifics.
Dialogue is solidly focused through the center channel, never letting up while delivering lower levels of music and sound effects. The forwards take those responsibilities seriously, delivering clarity but also separation. A particular scene involving Bruce and his partner walking down a hallway starts in the right speaker and phases effortlessly to the left. And while a good transfer is fairly standard these days, the best add a solid surround environment which Filth proudly displays. It’s an active field, sporting everything from crowd noise to background music by Composer Cliff Mansell and a memorable scene involving a copy machine at a Christmas party. Finally, the LFE pulses throughout – especially as Bruce’s hallucinations increase – but can also be heard thumping and pulsing throughout. This is a fine track that utilizes most if not all of the spectrum, and should shine on most hi-def platforms.
- Commentary with Director Jon S. Baird and Author Irvine Welsh: An enjoyable track that feels more like two friends yucking it up, the two focus on character interactions and the multiple locations where Filth was shot. It’s an engaging track, almost as enjoyable as the film itself.
- Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes (23:21): The eleven scenes are rolled into one continuous scene, but it’s clear that the movie is a much better product without them. Either way, you be the judge.
- Outtakes (7:35): The cast engage in a great collection of screwed up dialogue and ad-libbing.
- On the Set – Merry Filthmas (4:15): One of the funniest scenes of the film, Director Baird, Novelist Welsh, and other cast members discuss shooting the Christmas party copy machine scene.
- James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson – The Antihero (11:58): The topic of mental illness takes center stage as Welsh, Baird, and others discuss McAvoy’s incredible transformation. Composer Cliff Mansell also shows up to lend his thoughts, and McAvoy himself explains how his half-whiskey/junk food binges helped him ‘prepare’ for the role.
- AXS TV – A Look at Filth (2:57): McAvoy takes us through this sizzle reel and breaks down several of the characters in the film. It’s too short, but at least McAvoy steps in to promote the picture.
- Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment: One of the weirdest aspects of the release is the lack of an actual trailer for the Filth and the inclusion of several other ones. These include Nymphomaniac: Volume I, The Protector 2, The Sacrament and The Double. There’s also unnecessary promo pieces for the Chideo Web Service and AXS TV. Do your best to skip these.
- Bookmarks: A nice feature in case you want to skip right the depravity.
- BD-Live: We couldn’t get the BD-Live to work, so let us know if it worked for you.
Our evaluation copy arrived as a single 50GB BD with no slipcase or interior artwork. At the time of this posting, we were unaware of any special editions.
Filth is one of those extraordinary movies that’s also incredibly hard to watch. Bruce Robertson is a complete a-hole, and his life is a tragic spin down the toilet. It’s a trainwreck that you can’t help but watch, seeding itself as one of the top movies of 2014. The home release is up to the challenge as well, sporting terrific audio and video as well as a nice selection of supplements. I hope MPAS gives this film the praise it deserves by including McAvoy and Writer Baird in its nominations. Yes, it’s that good and therefore comes highly recommended.
Filth is rated R for everything under the sun and has a runtime of 98 minutes.