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Filth
Genre Crime
 
Review:

Director, Jon S. Baird is a brave and determined director. When the pig-headed policeman on the front cover of Irvine Welsh's Filth caught his imagination, he read the novel and was inspired to direct what was then deemed impossible to adapt. The film rights had just expired and Baird took it upon himself to visit Irvine Welsh in person to convince him that the adaptation for his book was in good hands. After a clinking of pints between the Trainspotting author and Cass writer-director, Filth was born.

The novel follows the dark, often shocking misadventures of Bruce Robertson, a bipolar, bigoted junkie cop in Scotland. The bent copper's animal drive for promotion and attempt to win back his family sees a number of colleagues unwittingly become targets as Robertson destructive path becomes a wake of debauched sexual, narcotic and ethically-unhinged encounters.

As you would guess from the title and synopsis, Filth is not a film for sensitive viewers. Jon S. Baird's retelling doesn't pull any punches and James McAvoy's fearless performance adds clout to this downward spiral character portrait. While drenched in filth, this crime drama has dark comedy undertones, which add pale levity and keep it from imploding.

Bruce Robertson is despicable, yet through James McAvoy's red-blooded performance we're still able to sympathise and find something detestable yet accidentally likable at his core. McAvoy is in every scene and carries Filth through its paces with impassioned chest-beating madness and a transformative performance.

It's a role he wanted so badly he agreed to audition for it and take a producer credit, after the producers felt he wasn't right to play the 40-year-old cop. He convinced them with a strong audition and makes the end result difficult to imagine any one else in the role.

He's not alone, going into combat with a strong ensemble of British actors, all eager to be attached to Filth's indie adaptation. Jim Broadbent, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots and Eddie Marsen support McAvoy in completely revising their atypical on-screen roles. Broadbent is comically deranged as Dr. Rossi, Jamie Bell delivers an uncharacteristic performance as Lennox, Poots gets nitty-gritty as the no-nonsense Drummond and Eddie Marsen bubble wraps his psychotic intensity for a goggle-eyed nice guy.

The collective of compelling performances is the glue that holds Filth together, under the indomitable McAvoy. Baird knows the character inside out and manages to rope a rather eclectic narrative of hallucinations, reality and everything in-between. It's a roller-coaster ride through a ghost tunnel. We're entertained, we're shocked and we're amused by Robertson's descent into Richard III madness.

Nic Cage and Werner Herzog's mixed bag version of Bad Lieutenant come to mind... yet Filth doesn't degenerate into parody. The mix of low budget grit and first-rate acting are a wonderful paradox of welcome depravity. We're entranced by the performances, yet repelled by the character's twisted and manic world. Baird dangles redemption in front of Robertson... propelling his nightmare at the same speed as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Filth knows it isn't for everyone. This is a dark, harrowing psychological crime drama with dabs of dark comedy. If you enjoyed Trainspotting, you'll have a good idea of just how off-the-wall Irvine Welsh's writing is. There is a twist that doesn't quite work and the film could have used subtitles in places, but everything's smoothed over by McAvoy's pig-in-mud performance.

The bottom line: Impassioned

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