Director: Jon S. Baird
Screenplay: Jon S. Baird
Based on a Novel by: Irvine Welsh
Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Joanne Froggatt
Running Time: 97 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
Trainspotting ripped onto the British film scene in 1996 at the centre of the ‘cool Britannia’ movement, showing the world that the British film industry could make something bold, exciting and stylish, not just period dramas and grim social realism. As well as making a better name for British cinema it also helped boost the popularity of the work of Irvine Welsh, whose novel the film was based on. Another attempt to bring his wild, unvarnished view of Scottish life to the screen came soon after with The Acid House, but this was a relative failure. Although Welsh’s books continued to sell, filmmakers seemed to steer clear of trying to pull off Danny Boyle’s balancing act of managing the madness alongside the central character arc and impact of the social side of the writing. There have been numerous rumours of a film adaptation of Porno, Welsh’s sequel to Trainspotting, but these have never become more than mere rumours.
Fast forward 17 years (God that makes me feel old) and Jon S. Baird has brought Welsh’s Filth to the screen. James McAvoy takes the lead as Bruce Robertson, a racist, homophobic, drug taking detective sergeant in Edinburgh. He’s desperate to win back his wife and daughter (the reason for their disappearance is held back through most of the film) and the only way he feels he can do this is by beating his colleagues to a forthcoming promotion. Desperate, he will do anything to get it and treats the whole operation as a cruel game in which he will crush even his last few friends to win.
Right from the offset it’s obvious we’re in the mind of Welsh with Scotland’s seamy underbelly being ripped open by the staggeringly offensive Bruce. Unfortunately Baird doesn’t have the same handle on it as Boyle did. The first half in particular is of wildly varying quality. There are a number of cutaways to short fantasy sequences, either for gags or to bring us into Bruce’s warped mind and these often fall flat. The tone and presentation of these scenes take outrageousness too far into campy territory and because of this the film seems more silly than sharply pointed.
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