Irvine Welsh has created some of the most thought provoking novels of the past 25 years, so much so that many pieces of his literary collection have been adapted in some form over the years. From the Danny Boyle's 1996 classic film Trainspotting to Paul McGuigan's film, The Acid House, each director has lent their unique talents to the telling of Welsh's cult classics. While a series of adaptation failures plagued Welsh in the late 1990's thru the early 2000's, there has always been a vibe around the announcement of another project. This year brings director Jon S. Baird's take on the mind and words of Irvine Welsh, the 1998 novel Filth, and I'm confident in saying it is the best adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel since Trainspotting.
Now on Demand & iTunes, in theaters May 30th
The story surrounds the exploits of Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), a self-serving, manipulative junkie Scottish detective who also doubles as a member of the Freemasons. He spends the majority of his time shagging, drinking, and snorting his way through life in the Scottish city of Edinburgh. Robertson's favorite past time however is trying to scheme his way to the promotion of Detective Inspector, for which he is one of five possible candidates. The opportunity to play "the game" as he calls it, are a series of foul plots to dissuade the acting Detective Inspector from choosing any of his colleagues for the position leaving himself as the sole choice for the job. After a Japanese student is murdered by a gang of thugs, Robertson is presented with an opportunity to prove his worth for the promotion.
We learn that Robertson is married with a child, but his path into darkness for which he chooses to follow seems to have derailed his relationships with his wife and child. As his investigation begins, he slowly loses his grip on reality leading to a downward spiral into his addictions. Robertson finds an companion in his colleague Ray (Bell), a younger detective who strives for the same promotion as Robertson but also shares the same addictions for drugs and sex. Robertson's game of manipulation also involves the sexual exploitation of fellow officers wives. He engages in rough sexual activities with Chrissie (Dickie), the spouse of one of his rivals for the promotion Detective Gillman and also enjoys crank calling Bunty (Henderson), the wife of a Freemason brother, Clifford Blades (Marsan) whom he enjoys systematically bullying and taking advantage of.
Through a series of dream conversations with psychiatrist Dr. Rossi (Jim Broadbent), we learn that an event has lead Robertson to this place. Slowly we watch Robertson lose his grip on reality as he slips further and further down the rabbit hole. Hallucinations begin to become commonplace and any return to normality seems to be lost. All that's left is to take those final steps of a journey that has already begun. Robertson's slow walk into madness.
McAvoy is nothing short of sensational. His portrayal of a man bent on self destruction is as gripping a performance as you will find this year. Supporting the madness cannot be easy. Actor Eddie Marsan allows his character's gullible mild mannered nature to not only add credence to the insanity of Robertson's world, but also show the side of humanity that Robertson destroys while repressing any remorse, even for someone he considers his best friend. Director Baird, whose only other directorial experience is 2008 football hooligan film Cass, choice to allow the film to take in some of author Welsh’s humor and allows it to flourish is a wise one. Ultimately this film not for everyone. Fans of the Welsh novels and Boyle's Trainspotting will rejoice and embrace this film while newcomers may struggle to find it appeal. Filth is not a film that will win any box office weekends and it doesn't have to, but if you take this journey into madness, you will find yourself captivated by its beauty and chaos.
Stars: 4 out of 5