Forget good cop-bad cop, it’s just bad cop-very bad cop in this wild, thrilling adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s satirical novel, Filth. James McAvoy is brilliant as bent cop Bruce Robinson who, thoroughly depraved and debauched, shags, snorts, drinks and deceives his way through his chaotic, angry, nihilistic life.
He’s an Edinburgh detective vying with colleagues for a promotion and so the brutal murder of a Japanese student gives him a chance to prove he’s the man for the job; find the murderers, solve the case and he’s a shoo-in.
The problem is Robbo has become so corrupt that he barely knows right from wrong anymore. He has a drink and drug addiction, a taste for prostitutes, is having an affair with a colleague’s wife and thinks nothing of shafting anyone to get what he wants.
In short, he’s a monster; but is he a redeemable one? The terrifying visions he has suggests there may have once been a decent guy lurking inside Bruce, but for most of the film he’s in a downwards spiral of rage and loathing, an orgy of sex and violence that veers back and forth between hilarity and depravity.
Ultimately, it’s bleak but Baird leavens his film with Welsh’s trademark black humour. There are plenty of hilarious, memorable scenes, from an outrageous Christmas party to a weekender bender in Hamburg with straight-laced accountant chum Bladesy (Eddie Marsan) who he relentlessly bullies.
Baird also paces his film superbly. It feels like you’re on a wild-eyed binge with Robinson as he reels from one encounter to another and the soundtrack from Clint Mansell adds to that out-of-control, dizzying feeling.
Filth may not have the cultural impact of that other great Irvine Welsh adaptation Trainspotting, but it’s just as impressive. Unsettling, shocking, surreal and very funny, it’s not for the faint-hearted but it’ll undoubtedly be one of the films of the year and features a brave and brilliant turn from James McAvoy.