So, we’ve all experienced the dirty needle-eye view of Scotland’s motley crew, fronted by Ewan McGregor as Renton, in Danny Boyle’s cinematic interpretation of Irvine Welsh’s junkie nightmare, Trainspotting. This adaptation became synonymous with nineties, British culture and had a banging soundtrack that not only defined a generation but also still plays like a fresh, relevant and shockingly heroin-riddled tale seventeen years on.

The cinematic adaptation of Filth, Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel, may not have that same all-encompassing effect in 2013 as Trainspotting did in 1990-something, but that doesn’t mean its any less entertaining. There is still the joyful depravity that only Welsh can seem to conjure up with these crazy characters embedded in a world of, well, filth.

Filth-Poster-441x650Director Jon S. Baird has transferred a novel to the screen that shouldn’t really work as a film at all. Of course, the plot is a little more linear, and there is less dialogue from the protagonist’s tapeworm [read the book if that sounds odds…] but Baird has managed to create an assault on the senses that stays true to the nature of a complex book complete with perfectly interpreted characters – and for that I tip my hat to him.

James McAvoy gives a stellar performance as the film’s lead character, Bruce Robertson. Remember Begbie from Trainspotting? Well, Bruce is like Begbie with an extra sprinkling of cocaine and bipolar for good measure. Scheming Bruce Robertson is a bigoted, drug-addled policeman who is willing to go to great length in order to score a promotion- a career move which he believes will win back his wife and daughter.

With this promotion in the balance, Bruce is up against several colleagues and sets about turning one against the other, unsettling them with salacious gossip and blatant lies to ensure he beats them to the post. Throw in his manipulation of fellow freemason Bladesey (Eddie Marsan), his sultry wife, Carole (Shauna MacDonald) and his hallucinatory sessions with Doctor Rossi (Jim Broadbent) and you have one monumentally screwed up anti-hero. Plus everyone wants to see someone in authority doing things they really shouldn’t be doing- makes us feel better about our own quirks and mistakes right?

The truth is no matter how awful Bruce is, and trust us, he is absolutely without morals, he is entirely likeable- he never loses the audience. There’s enough humour and enough of a glimmer of a back-story throughout that is never quite revealed until the very end almost that keeps us hooked, desperate to find out what’s driven our Scottish cop to such levels of degeneracy.

This is something that must be credited to Welsh’s fantastic character writing. Nobody writes actual believable yet simultaneously absurd characters like Irvine Welsh. We stick with these freakish characters because they seem real- its like we know that everyone is a little bit nuts, or a little bit immoral, or even a little bit of a junkie in real life but Irvine Welsh allows us a glimpse into these insane lives from the safety of our book pages, and now, our cinema seats.

The cast that Baird has poured into Filth is amazing in their interpretation of this mess of freaks and misfits. There isn’t a poor performance in the entire film from the uncertain coked-up laddishness of Ray (Jamie Bell) to the fantastic absurdity of Doctor Rossi. Imogen Poots, Shirley Henderson, Gary Lewis, Joanne Froggatt…The list of great performances is endless, yet James McAvoy is indisputably the star of the show. McAvoy glitters in a maniacal, grimy way, which is full throttle from beginning to end.

The deliriously dirty cop powers through the film with hallucinations that have us second-guessing as to what is real and what is drug induced, or simply imagined by our crazed protagonist. James McAvoy embodies the monstrous character of Bruce perfectly teetering between repellent, hilarious and at times vulnerable. There is a strong overtone of nihilism with this character and McAvoy has definitely taken inspiration from the slithering and snarling Alex DeLarge from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Taking pride in his extra marital antics and finding the humour in the obscene there is a brilliantly devilish smile that plays across Bruce’s face in some of the most painful moments.

Filth has a great mix of laughs, shocks, and hard-hitting scenes meaning this deranged film could be considered black comedy and gritty drama. There is a constant cheeky nod to the audience throughout which takes the sting out of some of the more shocking scenes.

Expect, sex, drugs, lies, more sex, and a bit of whiskey to boot- it is set in Scotland after all.

Filth is bound to be a cult classic for those cinemagoers that love an anti-hero and aren’t easily offended but will undeniably fail to have the same cultural clout as Trainspotting.

VERDICT: [rating=4]

About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.