Hard-boiled fiction is best when it hits hard and unexpected at high speed. The aptly named “Filth” reminds me of James Elroy’s post-L.A. Confidential’s voice starting with “White Jazz,” : frenetic, irreverent, politically incorrect as can be, sexy, sexist, racy, racist, drug charged, and non-stop energy. James McAvoy plays an Edinburgh Homicide Detective Bruce Robertson, who is a wretched, oversexed, manipulative detective who is living wildfire and a major bastard. He’s due for a promotion and stealthily plans the demise of his rivals for the step-up. He’s always a leap ahead of what he deems their weaknesses. His wife narrates from the fringes always in a catching nightie. These scenes are fantasy-like explaining the perfect nature of their marriage. The setting is mid-December and the bright, exuberant seasonal music counterpoints the horrible behavior of the protagonists. There are other fantasy sequences starring Jim Broadbent who peels away the confident exterior at Bruce’s tragic core with mean spirited vehemence, which is what he deserves. Adding to the fantasy is the sight of pigs, hags, sheep, buzzards where there should be people, including his own reflection.
The film’s big revelation isn’t for all but not overly surprising considering the drugs he pops, snorts, and swills like candy. It’s an almost Shyamalanian twist. For all the film’s energy, the resolution seems like a real let-down although strangely just. While Robertson’s antics deserve no sympathy, like the high from the drugs he snaps up, the comedown from all the energy is somewhat disappointing. The animated ending credits are a quite hilarious bonus to a super-charged oddly moralistic film. James McAvoy is great, however, whatever the film’s flaws stealing every scene he’s in, going full steam forward in a fully committed role, and breaking the fourth wall along the way to wink at us. The direction and editing are sharply honed to almost Edgar Wright precision allowing me to give “Filth” a moderate recommendation.