FILTH

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3 stars
Scottish cult author Irvine Welsh has carved a career out of drug and alcohol fuelled frenzies among the poor and disenfranchised of Britain's north. While Danny Boyle's adaptation of Trainspotting proved an overnight success, Welsh's other novels have not faired so well. It could be argued that his brand of ball-breaking humour and human excess doesn't travel far from the page before curling up like the downtrodden underclasses they depict.

In tackling Filth, the drug and alcohol fuelled story of a frenzied police officer, writer/director Jon S. Baird (Green Street Hooligans) doesn't stray far from formula: broad humour, foul language, substance abuse, physical abuse and psychotic episodes amid a frightening mental breakdown. The twist is the social standing of Officer Robertson (James McAvoy) – the protagonist is scum from the other side of the legal divide – along with his elegant secret, one that manages, after many diversions, to kick the story into goal. In most other respects, this is another been-here, seen-that Boyle wannabe that is over reliant on what has become the standard for Welsh adaptations.

Fortunately there's McAvoy. A one-time council kid himself, the Glasgow native knows Welsh's milieu intimately and pours himself into the central role, managing to smooth out much of Baird's fairly lumpy direction. Even when he can't, he gives us something striking to watch. McAvoy's magnetic performance lifts his character beyond one dimension in ways the supporting cast - Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell and Eddie Marsan among them – is unable to achieve. Shirley Henderson, a willing victim of Robertson's atrocious conduct, is entertaining, but it's not much of a stretch. Jim Broadbent as a hyper-peculiar Australian psychologist is as distressing as he is appealing.

Yet for all its familiarity, Filth manages to bring something new to a worn genre by way of Robertson's emotional meltdown. As desperation takes hold and drives him beyond all reasonable behaviour, he and Baird find a moment of blinding clarity that makes it all worthwhile. Just.

// COLIN FRASER

Previewed at Dendy Cinemas, Newtown, Sydney, on August 21, 2013

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STUFF

CAST
James McAvoy
Jamie Bell
Eddie Marsan
Jim Broadbent

DIRECTOR
Jon S. Baird

SCREENWRITER
Jon S. Baird

COUNTRY
UK

CLASSIFICATION
R18+

RUNTIME
97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
November 21
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Filth (2013) on IMDb
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Stacks Image 56