Filth-Quad-PosterHaving witnessed James McAvoy playing a good cop earlier in the year in Welcome to the Punch, he’s now back in law enforcement, portraying one of the worst, most vile detective sergeants you could possibly imagine, in Jon S. Baird’s unique, eccentric and somewhat unsettling adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel Filth.

Taking place across a hazy, hallucinatory festive period, McAvoy plays Bruce Robertson; a bigoted, mentally disturbed detective aiming for a promotion in his Edinburgh constabulary. With an unhealthy mix of class A drugs and an intense case of misanthropy, Robertson manipulates all of his fellow contenders and “friends” for the position, including Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell), Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots) and the naïve local businessman Bladesey (Eddie Marsan). However his aggressive nature and selfish actions send the cop into a black hole, as he not only attempts to win back his wife and daughter, but his own state of mind.

After Trainspotting, it’s fair to say that Danny Boyle set the standard rather high in regards to adapting the work of Welsh, and the iconic British feature certainly seems to have paved the way for filmmakers to take a somewhat similar approach, as Filth has that swagger about it, complete with a memorable soundtrack, in what is a fantastical, surreal drama that remains haunting and disturbing too. Baird manages to avoid his film becoming a mere homage to Boyle’s masterpiece however, and although sharing a similar dark, Scottish wit – complete with a surrealist lunacy not too dissimilar to that of comedian Limmy – this certainly stands alone as an innovative production.

Filth is an ambitious project but it’s one that Baird takes in his stride, as his directorial intentions are triumphant in their conviction. When Baird wants Filth to be dark, it’s dark. When he wants it to be poignant, it’s poignant. When he wants it to be funny, oh you get the picture. Beginning as a full-on, riotous comedy, Filth is hilariously crass and offensive, before spiralling into deep, dark places. The blackening mood and atmosphere of the film is reflective of our lead, as despite all being fun and games to begin with, things take a turn for the worse, and we go on this deranged journey with him.

The role of Robertson is a challenging one for McAvoy, as he had to take this disgraceful character and get the audience on his side, persuading them to root for him despite witnessing some heinous, unforgivable acts, and he is nothing short of outstanding, in what truly is a career defining performance. On the whole you do dislike Robertson, and whilst he is vying for a promotion, you’re vying for him to fail. Nonetheless, McAvoy provides the character with a vulnerability, a fragility that allows for us to pity him in spite of his immorality. Meanwhile, Marsan is also terrific, and for a man who has himself played the occasional troubled, vindictive character, in this production he plays the sweetest, most endearing man, working as a wonderful counterpart to McAvoy’s Robertson.

Filth is incredibly unsavoury, but manages to stay on the right side of what is deemed acceptable, simply by being so offensive and obnoxious to absolutely everyone, without exception, where no-one is safe. As a result Filth is a film you may love or one you may just hate, and although it could go either way, it’s safe to say that one remains resolutely and undeniably in the former camp.