James McAvoy takes a turn as dirty cop in an adaptation of Irvine Welsh's "Filth".
If James McAvoy has a master plan to wipe the baby off his face (Narnia, Atonement) he’s right on track, following up the delirium of Danny Boyle’s Trance with a performance of unrepentant, irredeemable ugliness in Baird’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth.
As Scottish detective Bruce Robertson, McAvoy is a steamroller of dirty-tricked, lithium-fuelled misogyny, slashing and burning his way through everything upon which he sets a bloodshot gaze. Marriage and family? Gone to the lowest bidder with alcohol, porn and drugs. Friends and colleagues? Sold for a shot at that promotion destined to bring back the wife – now the distant object of bipolar mind-fucks.
Comparisons to Boyle’s version of Welsh’s Trainspotting loom. But where Boyle pulled off an urban milieu study of frenzied highs and lows, Baird goes for an uneasy alliance of festive-season sameness: tenebrous interiors, sunless suburbia and city centres merge tonally – CGI notwithstanding – with visits to the doc (mad scientist Broadbent) and the darker reaches of Robertson’s psyche. When they do pop up, intimations of goodness appear as slightly incongruous, elliptical liberties in a not uniformly consistent version of Welsh’s narrative. The vision might be flawed but McAvoy has definitely nailed his part in it: the only way up from here is down.
Filth | Directed by Jon S. Baird (UK 2013) with James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent. Starts October 17
Originally published in issue #120, October 2013.