If you thought Trainspotting’s collection of junkie scumbags were the lowest of the low, get ready to wallow around in a stinking pit of depravity that would make even Francis Begbie blush. Meet reeking cesspool of a copper Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) and then be very, very glad you only had to see him on the big screen in Filth and not knocking at your front door with his badge in his hand.
Filth is the unsanitary and unsavoury depiction of bent Scottish cop Bruce Robertson (a never better James McAvoy), created by Irvine Welsh and adapted for the screen by writer/director Jon S. Baird. Taking tips from the mother of all Welsh adaptations, Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, Baird has crafted a surreal and squalid trawl through Edinburgh’s underbelly starting with one of the sick scumbags who is supposed to police it.
Little piggies will squeal with delight at the whiskey guzzling, coke hoofing, sexually depraved antics of Scotland’s finest while the rest will take comfort in watching the decline of Bruce Robertson’s sordid existence as he struggles to catch a killer, gain a promotion and mess with the minds of everyone unfortunate enough to be close to him.
Checking out the wild life of Robertson as he plays his nefarious games with colleagues, their wives and his freemason friend takes up the majority of Filth’s first hour. A pivotal scene in which Imogen Poot’s more-than-simply-posh-totty colleague gets under his terrible skin reveals the layers beneath the dirt with McAvoy’s performance becoming increasingly mesmerising as his character starts to really unravel in the final third.
As Robertson’s sad little life spins increasingly out of control, his wild life leads to wildlife haunting his hallucinations. Faces of those around him turn to pigs, witches and all manner of horrors as Bruce sinks faster into addiction and loses his grip on reality.
McAvoy makes an almost sympathetic anti-hero out of Bruce by the end with Baird’s script and slight alterations to the source novel making Filth a far more appealing ride than the book ever was. As Bruce flits between fun and filthy, there is plenty to laugh, wince and gasp at while some of the secondary characters such as Eddie Marsan’s Clifford Blades are the ones that should be tugging at the heart strings. However with a performance as demented, ferocious, feral and frequently fun as McAvoy’s the likes of Jamie Bell and Marsan barely get any scenes to shine out of the muck.
The supporting cast add touches of humour with buckled down Marsan particularly getting one stand out scene while raving on ecstasy but Jim Broadbent takes weird to the next level when he pops up as Bruce’s Australian shrink in increasingly surreal episodes that hammer home exposition while reminding of the superior nightmarish moments of Trainspotting.
THE VERDICT With a sensational soundtrack and putrid performance from McAvoy, Filth is far more fun than it should be. Wallow in it…
Certificate 18 Director John S. Baird Starring James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson Screenplay John S. Baird Distributor Lionsgate Running time 97 mins
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