Filth Blu-ray Review

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McAvoy excels in Irvine 'Trainspotting' Welsh's hallucinogenic corrupt cop comedy-drama

by Casimir Harlow Feb 6, 2014 at 10:59 AM

  • Movies & TV review


    Filth Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    Filth Blu-ray Review

    Boasting a career-high performance from the ever-impressive and increasingly versatile James McAvoy, debut writer/director Jon S. Baird's adaptation of Irvine "Trainspotting" Welsh's 1998 novel of the same name is an expectedly dark and frequently unpleasant ride.

    The film is laced with black humour, brimming with sex and drug use, and all wrapped around a lead character who is loathsome, but in an undeniably intoxicating way. Whilst McAvoy's Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson may only be his bipolar Brit half-cousin, there are clear parallels between him and Harvey Keitel's Bad Lieutenant in Abel Ferrarra's equally hard-to-watch indie gem. Plenty of films have recently dealt in excess, not least the equally intoxicating but unfortunately resoundingly overlong Scorese/DiCaprio Wolf of Wall Street, but thankfully Filth attempts to paint a richer character design beyond just bravado and pure visceral sex and drug excess. It attempts to develop insight into the lead character, drop-feeding us his darker history, and building in a slow-burning, cautious fashion towards what is an undeniably shock ending.
    Whether or not that ending particularly works, is a different question entirely, but it’s more hearty, satisfying and meaningful than just playing the story for dark laughs alone. Filth is certainly not going to be to everybody’s tastes. It is Welsh, after all, and Baird appears keen to remain faithful to the source work, warts and all. Unfortunately, this makes it an oftentimes downright unpleasant watch whose dark humour eventually subsides in favour of just darkness. It survives as an adaptation thanks to some innovative low budget directorial flourishes, a great accompanying score by regular Darren ‘Black Swan’ Aronofsky collaborator Clint Mansell, and, above all, a career-high powerhouse lead performance from James McAvoy. These are the reasons you should watch it.

    Amoral, Machiavellian, misanthropic, sexist, racist, and psychopathic, McAvoy's filthy DS could give Keitel's Bad LT a run for his money.

    Filth Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Filth Filth Blu-ray Picture Quality
    Filth comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate, packing a 1080p/AVC High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. It’s far from a pretty movie, and that is clear and apparent right from the first (post-credits) shot, but, keeping that in mind, you will likely find that it looks rich and authentic, never less than precisely how the Director intended.

    Detail is generally very good, particularly when it comes to McAvoy’s unruly beard; with skin textures, clothing weaves and background flourishes evident at every stage. Indoor sequences generally look considerably more refined and polished when compared to the exterior shots, with some looking very smart indeed, and boasting a pleasant clarity that measures up to the latest productions, although, in general, this is pretty far from demo material. Although there’s no overt signs of digital defects and video issues, the grain/noise level is quite variable, making you wonder just how much was added/amended. It’s not an Expendables 2 scenario, but Lionsgate don’t exactly have a clean track record when it comes to this kind of thing.

    The colours scheme is generally fairly consistent with the setting, although the contrast has been tweaked and whites positively bloom, lending the film a suitably dreamy, ethereal edge in many of the shots. Black levels are reasonably strong, and rich enough in most sequences, but far from perfect, and overall this is a solid, undoubtedly faithful representation of a distinctly gritty, dirty movie.

    A solid presentation for a filthy movie.

    Filth Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Filth Filth Blu-ray Sound Quality
    The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a welcome enhancement for the movie, particularly given its content. Whilst the film is quite low-key and very low budget, leaving the track marginally limited as a result, it does come boasting a number of great elements – not least composer Clint Mansell’s fantastic score, as well a few song tracks, including a well-placed contribution from Radiohead.

    Clint Mansell's score defines this track.

    Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate, and keeping head and shoulders above the rest of the track, although that will likely not help if you simply can’t get your head around some of the heavy Scottish accent-work. Effects generally take a back-seat, although the enthusiastic style of the piece and frenetic editing do allow for a number of nice flourishes across the piece, making up somewhat for the lack of genuine atmospheric work or ambient reproduction. Overall it’s the music that makes the track, and that makes this a welcome accompaniment.

    Filth Blu-ray Extras

    Filth Filth Blu-ray Extras

    Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jon S. Baird and Author Irvine Welsh is a fun, jovial affair, with plenty of information – mostly coming from Baird’s direction – but a wonderful little repartee between the two. They chat about the music, the voiceover, the various cast members and what they brought to the piece, often regaling an anecdote or two about every single one of them. Fans of Welsh (who recorded it on his birthday) or his work should definitely check this out, it’s a welcome accompaniment.


    Interview with Star James McAvoy brings us a few minutes with the star of the show, discussing his interest in the part, what drew him to the role, and what it was like working with Welsh’s material and under the helm of Baird. Always worth your time, this is a nice little accompaniment to the Commentary.

    Interview with Writer/Director Jon S. Baird is a nice little informative 10 minute piece that further explores Baird’s interest in the material – his favourite of Welsh’s novels – and how many regarded it as being an unfilmable novel, which he took to like a challenge. Well-spoken and clearly passionate about the work, it’s arguably nicer to hear from this guy than Welsh himself, particularly with his frank and anecdotal style.

    Interview with Author Irvine Welsh rounds out the trio of Interviews with some time spent with the Writer, who expands a little on what’s offered in the Commentary by further chatting about his original novel, how difficult it was to adapt, and what he thought of the production.

    Despite being a relatively low-key indie release, Filth comes boasting a whole host of extras.

    Additional Footage

    Deleted Scenes total about 8 minutes of additional footage, split over four scenes, most of which are basically Extended Scenes, so it’s odd that they split those into a separate section. These are all worth checking out, from an interesting airport lounge incident to a bit of attempted beastiality. There’s nothing that needed to be left in, but they’re all McAvoy-centric, which makes them all worth watching.

    Extended Scenes brings us a further quarter-hour of footage, which should arguably be watched before the Deleted Scenes, particularly since one specific scene better explains the Deleted Airport Lounge segment. Again, worth dipping into, and fans of the original novel will enjoy the direct tapeworm reference here, particularly if they missed its omission from the film.

    Outtakes round off the disc with 6 minutes of fluffed lines, gags and on-set antics, as the cast and crew have a laugh during the production.

    Is Filth Blu-ray Worth Buying

    The Scottish answer to Bad Lieutenant, Jon S. Baird’s faithful and frenetic adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s third novel is engaging and intoxicating, largely thanks to a career-high performance from James McAvoy. Oftentimes unpleasant, the dark humour will be familiar to fans of Trainspotting, and Welsh in general, but may not work for everybody.

    This UK release boasts faithful but far from exceptional video and audio as well as a hefty selection of extra features, particularly for this kind of low-budget production, and comes recommended as a rental at least. Fans will find it an easy blind-buy but, conversely, those who don’t love the style and grungy grit may think one watch is enough.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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