Bruce Robertson is a cunt. He’s racist, misogynist and a bunch of other words that end in –ist. He eats ching and underage muff. He snorts hookers. He boshes swedgers and mates’ birds.
Brucey lies, steals and skives. He fucks anything with a pulse – and even then breathing’s optional, because Robbo’s happiest when his partner’s gas is firmly oot. He’s dissolute. He’s dangerous. He’s a bigoted, masonic sack of shit.
He’s just a regular cop.
Jon S. Baird’s screenplay sees Irvine Welsh’s 400-page opus condensed into 73 minutes of searing cinema. With Filth ruthlessly chopped down to size, its success is left riding on the shoulders of James McAvoy.
The Glaswegian doesn’t so much steal the show as tear it several new arseholes and chalk a coronary-inducing booty bump off each one. By the time Robertson has racked his last poodle’s leg, Scotland is left nursing a savage comedown and a swelling of national pride. Home of the telephone. Home of the deep fried Mars bar. Home of James McAvoy.
The latest king of Scotland
Despite being filmed on location, Filth doesn’t feel like an Edinburgh affair. Its world is a caricature of a caricature. It’s Snatch with Scottish accents. Director Jon S. Baird doesn’t concern himself with police work, preferring to detail Bruce’s descent into drug-addled madness.
In the novel, Bruce’s downfall occurs insidiously, wrapped inside greasy chip papers and blunted by late night beak sessions. The screenplay dispenses with such subtle texturing: one minute our protagonist is fine. The next he’s a greeting, bleeding mess who would struggle to get an erection, never mind a promotion. It’s telling that a morsel of food doesn’t pass Robertson’s lips throughout the movie.
As a film of two halves, Filth’s duality is stark and unsettling. By the time Robbo’s sprawled on his shrink’s couch being reprimanded by an Aussie with an impossibly large cranium, it’s all gotten a bit surreal. No more surreal, admittedly, than a tapeworm materialising out of the pages of a novel and digesting the prose.
At the bitter end, you won’t know whether to sob or scream YOLO. Bruce Robertson is a deeply unsympathetic character. So why is it impossible not to feel sorry for him? Perhaps it’s those piercing blue eyes and that cheeky smile. Perhaps it’s his roguish banter, because Brucey isn’t just a cunt – he’s a funny cunt, and in Scotland we do love a cunt who’s as dark as his patter.
In an era where mainstream movies are as forgettable as a Snapchat, Filth is a rare beast. 2013 will go down as the year of the TV drama and the video game. Vince Gilligan and Rockstar North (that other Edinburgh success story) deserve all the plaudits they get. Filth warrants a notable mention, however, for remaining seared in memory long after the credits have rolled.
Good cunt, bad cunt
Everyone has a mate like Bruce Robertson. Mate; acquaintance; casual associate. You may try and distance yourself from him, but you can’t get away from him. No matter how badly he fucks up, you forgive him. He might steal your ching, wank your dog and try to pump your bird, but eventually, against your better judgement, you’ll forgive him. Because you pity him.
If you don’t have a mate like that, then you are Bruce Robertson. And you’re a cunt.
Filth may be as flawed as its protagonist, but it’s also as brilliant. Irvine Welsh’s genius lies not in his ability to shock but in the visceral depth of his alpha males.
Christian Bale is Patrick Bateman. James Gandolfini is Tony Soprano. Bryan Cranston is Walter White. James McAvoy is Bruce Robertson.
Same rules, different story.