Sunday, 16 February 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2013: James McAvoy in Filth

James McAvoy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson in Filth.

Filth is a rather insane  and extremely entertaining film about a Scottish detective who is intent on getting the single promotion most of his fellow Detectives are vying for.

You can forget about any ideas about the types of characters James McAvoy usually plays because they have no relevance with his portrayal of Detective Bruce Robertson in this film. This is one performance that is best to go beat by beat the first beat McAvoy shedding any ideas you might have about him being one of those pretty boy actors who wants to play the youthful go getter sort of guy. That's not Bruce that's not Bruce one bit. One of his earliest scenes is when he and the other detectives get the lowdown on a crime from their chief, and the first thing he does is fart just to start things off I suppose. Anyway though McAvoy whole portrayal is what makes it hilarious as he gives the not me face, and then the accusatory glance at the man sitting closest to him. I guess that kind of sets the tone but don't be fooled by just that.

McAvoy's work here is highly entertaining from this early scene where he gives the low down on each of his opponents for the promotion. McAvoy's narration is this is very much like Leonado DiCaprio's in The Wolf of Wall Street, which is to say it is not your typical Morgan Freeman type of delivery. McAvoy's like DiCaprio's has that same amorality suggested just in the way he speaks about seemingly important things with such irreverence in his attitude. Like DiCaprio this makes his narration very comedic to behold, but McAvoy perhaps has a little extra added to it through a sense of mischief in his delivery. In his narration McAvoy does not just show that he wants to get the promotion over his co-workers by humiliating them, he also suggests in his slightly joyful delivery that he is going to personally enjoy every minute of it.

McAvoy's brilliance in this role though does not stop with his narration or his comedic timing, not by a small margin. We also soon get a glimpse with Bruce on the job which he takes as the king of the city style approach. He and another one of the detectives bust two young people one who is underage. McAvoy has the right cynical dominance in the scene and we see Bruce in top form as he controls the situation without question. His two interrogations of the subjects are particularly notable as Bruce humiliates and tortures each of them in most unusual ways to derive what he wants from them again rather unusual things that he desires. McAvoy carries himself with a palatable menace in the scene and you can see why they would give it up. That would be enough but McAvoy twists it by having such a sinister face of glee the whole time.

It is really saying something, I must say, that Detective Bruce Robertson actually makes the Bad Lieutenant seem like a lightweight by comparison when it comes to being the dirtiest cop imaginable. Aside of pushing subjects around to get whatever he wants Bruce indulges in somethings so many things that perhaps even Jordan Belfort might take a moment to consider doing them. We get the usual thing like having sex with a co-workers wife, but uh not usually in this way no not this way at all. Old Bruce not only has sex with her but they also both participate in autoerotic asphyxiation with one another as they take turns choking it other with ropes while having sex of course. By the way James McAvoy's face is something to behold in these scenes not only is he hilarious in his expression somehow, but he does not cut back on the depravity.

In his indulgences McAvoy makes Bruce Robertson almost a force of nature of sorts as he goes constantly for any enjoyment that can be found for himself whether it be sex, drink, drugs, or just some sort of humiliation for someone else. McAvoy sells every scene to the fullest extent and he goes about showing Bruce extreme exuberance of the moment. When Bruce is indulging McAvoy does not show him to be a man who is just trying to have a good time, not not even the slightest. McAvoy makes it far more primal and far more intense with Bruce. When Bruce does any of it McAvoy suggests an unsatisfiable need within Bruce to do these things. It is not just because he likes it not even  even close really, no what Bruce does is something it appears that Bruce must have, which is essential in the later revelations of his character.

Well as it turns out Bruce is more of a mess than he even appears to be, and well he definitely seems like a mess to begin with so how much more a mess can he be. Well he is not just a man who would want to attend a party by Bacchus like Jordan Belfort, nah because Bruce actually does have a soul even though that may be rather hard to believe. We first view Bruce's heart when he attempts to help a dying man and it flashes quickly to show that Bruce himself is thinking of this dying boy. McAvoy's performance is surprisingly heart wrenching at times because he does portray Bruce as genuinely being haunted by this death in his past. McAvoy does not separate from the rest of the man though by any measure but rather suggest quite effectively that his outrageous behavior is in fact has been caused by this trauma.

McAvoy is a marvel to behold at times the way he intertwines these facets of Bruce so flawlessly together. There is not the disconnect as you would think there would be as McAvoy brings both sides of Bruce together as one man. One particularly amazing scene is when Bruce goes from harassing one of the suspects of the crime he must solve first in his typical way of badgering while having his combination of a sneer and smile. On his way out though he bumps into the grieving woman whose husband he had attempted to save earlier. The few seconds where he changes demeanor McAvoy is masterful as we see a tender side of Bruce revealed as he attempts to try to deal with her in an honest way. McAvoy's moment creates a decided kink in Bruce's armor of amorality and remarkably shows that Bruce is not really what he makes himself out to be.

As the film progresses slowly things begin to fall more and more apart for Bruce as less and less does it seem like he really has a grasp on the case he's suppose to be solving, or the promotion he wants, or even reality. McAvoy's falling apart is truly something to behold here because firstly it comes naturally because of the seeds of doubt he planted in the played of the earlier scenes of the more controlled Bruce, but as well because McAvoy still does not hold back for a moment whether it be the debauchery he still continues to participate in and his ever growing fragile state of mind. McAvoy is amazing because he still stays hilarious while creating substantial sympathy for the broken man that Bruce slowly reveals himself to be. McAvoy's absurdly fascinating to watch in this depraved decay as even a moment of phone sex becomes a mental breakdown for Bruce.

One thing that seems like a silver lining for Bruce are those dreamlike images of his smoking hot wife. Of course they are dreamlike for a reason. The spoiler truth behind Bruce is that he actually spends his nights dressing up in women's clothing walking the streets and believing himself to be his wife who has left him. This scene could have fallen into an instantly bad sort of parody of absurdity but McAvoy never let's that happen. He plays it so flawlessly by making the moment darkly comic in its very own way, but also deeply tragic. The most interesting part of it McAvoy weaves his performance so its both tragic and funny for the same reason which is how he ends up at this point. Its oddly comical because we see the "tough" Bruce who humiliates others devolve to this point, but it's terribly tragic because McAvoy believably makes this the actual broken psyche of this man.

This performance is all about the ups and downs of the bipolar Bruce as the slow reveal of just how extreme his sides are. My favorite moment perhaps is the very end of his performance which one again so brilliantly connects the man even while his actions seems so random. McAvoy begins the scene where Bruce trying to inspire his one friend (Eddie Marsan), and McAvoy is genuinely warm and tender in the moment. He then proceeds to utter defeat and is extremely heartbreaking in showing the last of the man and just the slight hesitation as he sees one of the bright spots in his life, and then it all ends so perfectly with one last smile and wink that ends it all with one more laugh. This is an outstanding performance by James McAvoy as he turns the broken man into a cohesive whole, and I loved watching every minute of it.


luke higham said...

I think you'll give 9 5's now.

Also, what made you change the positioning of Fassbender & Abdi in Supporting.

Lastly, is Fassbender's rating in 12 years a slave safe?.

Louis Morgan said...

His rating is completely safe. I'm always going back and forth between the two in my mind anyway much like Eli Wallach and Tatsuya Nakadai in 66. Every time I decide to switch I start thinking about what I loved about the other's performance and start regretting the decision, I could just as easily switch back to Fassbender.

luke higham said...

Louis: Thanks for that. my predictions are completely fucked now, but I absolutely loved McAvoy, especially in his second scene, where he goes on the lowdown, for his opponents on the Detective Inspector's Position.

luke higham said...

Louis: Lastly, I'm quite sure you'll review Hanks next.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, I completely know how you feel on the back and forth thing, that happens to me all the time. In fact, I had a REALLY tough time putting Ejiofor ahead of McConaughey and I could very easily switch them around.

Matt Mustin said...

Also, have you seen Danny Boyle's Trance?

RatedRStar said...

I assure you not all Scottish people are really mean and violent =D (I know that I am Scottish but)

luke higham said...

Louis: what were your ratings & thoughts on John Hawkes in The Sessions & Ewan Mcgregor in Big Fish & The Ghost Writer.

Michael McCarthy said...

Wow...between McAvoy and Isaac it looks like McConaughey might be in trouble...even I'm starting to think McAvoy might deserve the win. Current top 5 for me:

1. Matthew McConaughey
2. James McAvoy
3. Oscar Isaac
4. Leonardo DiCaprio
5. Joaquin Phoenix

Matt Mustin said...

One last comment from me, sorry, but I just thought of it. Louis, what would your choices for Best Director be for the years 2000-2013?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I have a similar issue with the rankings this year. My fifth slot keeps changing from Gyllenhaal to Phoenix back and forth, and it's killing me to pick one. I do the same thing in picking one and then thinking of the strengths of the other. GAH!

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: I have not watched Trance.


2000: Christopher Nolan - Memento

2001: David Lynch - Mulholland Drive

2002: Sam Mendes - Road to

2003: Peter Jackson - The Return of the King

2004: Michael Mann - Collateral

2005: John Hillcoat - The Proposition

2006: Alfonso Cuaron - Children of Men

2007: David Fincher - Zodiac

2008: Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight

2009: Quentin Tarantino - Inglorious Basterds

2010: Kim Jee-woon - I Saw the Devil

2011: Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive

2012: Sam Mendes - Skyfall

2013: Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity


Hawkes - 4.5(His creation is flawless as you feel you are in a presence of a man in his condition. He has very strong chemistry with Hunt although I do feel he is slightly negatively affected by some of the film's awkward attempts at humor)

McGregor - Big Fish - 4 (A very endearing work that complements Finney's narration very nicely)

McGregor - The Ghost Writer- 4.5 (A rather great performance in the vein of a 70's thriller protagonist. You never feel the character is underwritten, even if he is a technical unknown, as McGregor is a compelling and very effective amplifying the tension the film builds)

Matt Mustin said...

Interesting choices for Director. I'm surprised you picked Michael Mann for Collateral (my choice would've EASILY been Michel Gondry for Eternal Sunshine). Are you planning on reviewing Tom Cruise?

Louis Morgan said...

I like Eternal Sunshine, but I just don't love it nearly as much as some.

That year is a bit packed but I do feel Cruise would be a worthy inclusion.

RatedRStar said...

Thats one of the reasons I chose 2 requests for supporting 2004, because I think it is a very weak year.

I noticed Louis that you gave James McAvoy a 2.5 for Atonement, I am curious as to why?

Matt Mustin said...

Wait, is Cruise lead or Supporting in Collateral? If he's lead, then forget it.

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: I have not watched the film since 07 so a re-watch could help him, but I did not really find him very memorable there.

Matt: I think I would put him in lead, but I do feel it can be argued for him to be put in supporting since the film follows Foxx instead of him whenever they part ways. The dynamic between the two is really the basis for the film though so I do feel he is co-lead.

Matt Mustin said...

Oh, in that case you can probably leave him off. There's many, MANY deserving performances that year.

RatedRStar said...

Well since there is an argument that he could be put supporting, I would put him there, since theres only 3 contenders for BSA 2004 and him taking a spot shouldnt be much of a problem.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I could argue for Rip Torn in Dodgeball for 2004 Supporting if I feel brave enough.

luke higham said...

Louis: have you seen Her yet.

Louis Morgan said...

Yes I have.

luke higham said...

Louis: what were your ratings & thoughts on Amy Adams & Scarlett Johansson.

luke higham said...

Louis: when will the review be up.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what are your thoughts on Joe Pesci and Donald Sutherland in JFK?

Anonymous said...

Could you give your ratings and thoughts on the following Lord of the Rings performances:

FotR: Dominic Monaghan, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett

Two Towers: David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lee

Return of the King: Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd

Calvin said...

Louis would you mind giving ratings to thr performances in Reservoir Dogs? x

Unknown said...

Note: Filth has not yet been released in the USA so it wasn't eligible for this year's awards. Magnolia has scheduled it for a limited theatrical release May 30, 2014, which would make McAvoy's performance eligible for next year. :)

Louis Morgan said...


Adams 4(A nicely warm and traditionally supporting turn by her. Really I wish this was her performance in contention this year)

Johannson 3.5(Solid voice work in being the seemingly sweet operation system, but I do feel the praise has been a tad overblown as if it was the first ever vocal performance worth mentioning, which it is not)


Pesci (Brings his volatile intensity brilliantly to play in basically portraying a man conflicted in the conspiracy. Pesci is not all intensity though and is rather moving in showing his character's terrible regrets)

Sutherland (Masterful monologue as he makes every word of it absolutely compelling no matter how ludicrous it technically is)


Monaghan 2(Never liked the rewrite of Merry into a doofus, that's Pippin's job, and Monaghan changes rather poorly from his silly delivery to sudden over intensity)

Rhys-Davies 3.5(His best performance in the series since he is not reduced to a joke most of the time. I like his dwarf as he brings the right fierceness to his role)

Bloom 2.5(He's not particularly interesting, but he fits the bill well enough)

Blanchett 3.5(Her part is limited but she is appropriately alluring and mysterious in the role)

Wenham 2.5(Does well when Fairmir is actually in the proper character, but does the evil Fairmir rather poorly)

Dourif 3.5 (A performance that is easy to take for granted as Dourif does do creepy so well, as he certainly shows here)

Lee 4(I always wish there was more of Saruman as Lee is perfect with his grand voice and very charismatic depiction of evil)

Otto 3.5(Gives her character the appropriate passion and determination)

Boyd 3.5 (Solid end in portraying the final maturity to Pippin and nicely makes his earlier stupid enthusiasm into a rather moving hopeful optimism)

Calvin: (I purposefully left of Buscemi just in case)

Keitel - 4
Roth - 4
Penn - 3.5
Tierney - 3.5
Madsen - 3.5
Bunker - 2.5
Tarantino - 1

Unknown: My eligibility is based on the films for non-festival release.