Thursday 19 January 2017

Film review - Paul Whittington: Filth

Bad apple is truly rotten to the core

Paul Whitington

Published 04/10/2013 | 04:00

James McAvoy: left high and dry in Filth
James McAvoy: left high and dry in Filth

This lurid Scottish drama written and directed by Jon S Baird and adapted from an Irvine Welsh novel had a tricky production history and now seems to be being pitched by its producers as a latter-day Clockwork Orange.

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And while I'm no particular fan of that overblown Stanley Kubrick production, it's Battleship Potemkin compared to this sorry mess. James McAvoy runs the show, playing Filth's coke-addled, protagonist, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson.

Bruce drinks and smokes and snorts his way around Edinburgh and hates black people, Asians and Catholics with a passion. He's obsessed with landing promotion to inspector, but decides to leave nothing to chance. Bruce is nasty as they come, and even stoops to using a harmless accountant (Eddie Marsan) as his unwitting agent of chaos. A strong cast includes Shirley Henderson as the accountant's vampish wife, Jamie Bell as Bruce's principal promotion rival, and Imogen Poots as a prissy colleague, but none of these fine actors are given actual characters to work with.

I haven't read Mr Irvine's original novel, which may or may not be as badly written and chaotically plotted as Mr Baird's film. But Filth the movie takes a psychology for dummies approach to character development, and blunders its way towards a bald explanation of Robertson's motivation that an averagely attentive cat will have seen coming a mile off. It's a loud, brash and clumsy film, and also a very bad one, full of dialogue but very short on drama.

McAvoy is a very interesting actor, and in recent years has moved impressively between comedy, action films and serious dramas. But he is left high and dry in Filth: his performance begins at such a heightened and semi-hysterical pitch that it has nowhere to go but through the roof. Only Eddie Marsan keeps his feet on the ground playing an over-trusting everyman.

Director: Jon S. Baird. Stars: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Shirley Henderson. HHII (18, general release, 97 minutes)

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