Think Irvine Welsh and you immediately think Trainspotting. Some of you will be thinking about Welsh’s caustic novel about drugs and degradation in Scotland. Most of you will be thinking of Danny Boyle’s prettified-Iggy-Pop-soundtracked-give-it-some-sense-of-redemption film interpretation. A film that became bigger than itself. It snatched heroin-chic out of the jaws of Calvin Klein! It scared parents! Teenagers actually picked up a book! And the soundtrack?! We all bloody loved Underworld’s Born Slippy didn’t we? Oy! Oy! Saveloy! You on one! Maybe not the 10 minute version so much. Like your pervy uncle coming over for Christmas, nice in theory, but troublesome in practice.
This preamble is an overlong way of saying that Trainspotting was never going to be replicated. Which is why people tried: See The Acid House and Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy.
So, when it comes to Jon S. Baird’s Filth, skepticism maybe high for this comedy-drama based on Irvine Welsh’s book of the same name. But fret not…
Ticking off the usual tropes of Welsh’s work – sex, drugs and impenetrable accents – James McAvoy plays DS Bruce Robertson; a misanthropic, alcoholic, five o’clock shadow of a man. He’s a bully and an adulterer. He plays little ‘games’ with his colleagues, like calling up their wives and, whilst performing a Frank Sidebottom impression, talks dirty to them. He is the worst person to put in charge of a murder investigation… And yet, clearly the memo didn’t reach his superiors.
Robertson belches, fucks, drinks and snorts his way through the investigation, taking a little time off to dose his friends in the middle of Amsterdam. McAvoy seems to be relishing the opportunity to play an utter bastard and you’ll be sucked in by the gravitational pull of his performance. There’s no cheeky, charming heroin addict a la Ewan McGregor here, Robertson is an utter shit.
Starting off bold as brass and beard of ginger, the pressure to prove himself to his superiors and his wife leads him down a path into the Arena of the Unwell. The extent of this illness is illustrated wonderfully by Baird through a series of imaginary conversations between Robertson and his psychiatrist, played with aplomb by a curiously accented Jim Broadbent.
For all its debauchery and sadism, Filth is equally a pitch black comedy that will raise giggles from you in the most unlikely circumstances. Not that it’s not without its moments of pathos, as slowly a picture builds up that clearly everything is not happy in the Robertson household. However, don’t expect to cling onto these moments for too long.
Filth is a cracking film. It snares you in and leaves you floundering as you try to scrabble around for someone to actually cheer on.
Good luck with that.