By Dominic Antill

Jon S Baird’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth is a dark and wild tumble down the rabbit hole that is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

There’s been a murder, and the riddle in this instance comes embroiled in a spiralling nightmare of sex, drugs and corruption. It’s a lesser Bad Lieutenant via Trainspotting with all the subtlety of a Glaswegian kiss.

James McAvoy takes centre stage as the unhinged, manipulative and villainous Detective Robertson who will go as low as he needs to in his quest for the promotion that he believes will win him back his wife and daughter. His maniacal determination on face value is initially paraded as plausible in a very bizarre way. But as the seams of Robertson’s sanity begin to unravel so do the foundations of the film wilt.

Robertson shows absolutely no regard for the people he comes into contact with, narcissistic isn’t the word, his world utterly pollutes and corrupts all around him. Throw in copious amounts of drugs and booze of all kinds and Jim Broadbent’s Dr Rossi confusing matters further and you begin to crave some fresh air and dare I say it, something a little less over the top. I am all for the utterly depraved, but Filth has an odd pop veneer that detracts from the grittiness of life usually depicted in tales of troubled souls dwelling in an urban setting.

The peripheral characters don’t get a chance to inject much of that haggis factor either, where McAvoy leads, the rest follow. Eddie Marsan playing Robertson’s hopelessly naïve, super geeky friend, Bladesey and Jamie Bell’s easily led, coked up Ray Lennox conform to type. Aside from Imogen Poots’ Amanda Drummond, impervious to Robertson’s, erm, charm, the depravity of the central performance is all consuming.

The sheer shock of Roberton’s private game of moral limbo is more than enough to provide some proper laughs though, even before he invites others to play. All “non-pc” gags are covered here, my personal favourite being between two lowlifes leaving a brothel. But whilst I enjoyed revelling in the derision of the cheapness of it all, it leaves the adventure a little hollow overall.

The film would seriously struggle without the energy of McAvoy but with the bombast comes the movie’s surrender to being entertaining simply for the endless gratuity. There are attempts at drawing sympathy from this tragic character’s mental breakdown towards the end but at no point do you ever really give a shit. You’ve just reluctantly been out on a heavy one with that mate who’s the devil in your ear and, starring into the abyss, you’re tucking into the greasiest grovel you can find just to keep going; this is not the time for reflection.

Filth is as it implies, like being repeatedly beaten over the head with a battered Mars bar spewing out as many clichés as this review.

I felt the come down wasn’t worth the ride on this occasion; it would be difficult do the same thing again next weekend. McAvoy seamlessly and impressively flits from horrible bastard to hallucinating horrible bastard but never quite deals the killer blow. He’s your horrible mate that never lets up on the banter, but not the guy you actually enjoy having around come to think of it. It’s a great vehicle for McAvoy but the rest falls short of Danny Boyle’s depiction of Welsh’s world.

VERDICT: 2.5/5

 

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