Combustible Celluloid
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With: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Brian McCardie, Emun Elliott, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Shauna Macdonald, Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Kate Dickie, Martin Compston, Iain De Caestecker, Shirley Henderson
Written by: Jon S. Baird, based on a novel by Irvine Welsh
Directed by: Jon S. Baird
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, language and some violence
Running Time: 97
Date: 05/30/2014

Filth (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bottom Dweller

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapted from a novel by Irvine Welsh, Filth belongs to a subgenre that pushes the limits of acceptable characters. In The Wolf of Wall Street, and Dom Hemingway, they indulge in debauchery of every kind, which can sometimes provide vicarious fun for a viewer, and is certainly great fun for an actor. Here, James McAvoy gives it his all, fearless, energetic, and lunatic. (He begins by snatching a child's balloon and firing off two middle finger gestures.)

In Edinburgh, detective sergeant Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) looks forward to getting a promotion, and feels he's the best man for the job. His loving wife agrees. Everything seems great until Bruce is assigned to investigate the murder of a Japanese student, and his life begins coming unraveled. He can't seem to stop scheming, such as making obscene phone calls to the wife (Shirley Henderson) of a close friend (Eddie Marsan), and disparaging the manhood of a rookie cop (Jamie Bell). He increases his drinking, drugs, and illicit sex, and begins hallucinating. Before long it becomes apparent that nothing in Bruce's world is quite as it seems. Can Bruce come to terms with the source of his pain before it's too late?

A colorful roster of somewhat cartoonish supporting characters helps set the mood, ranging from Jim Broadbent's creepy psychiatrist to Henderson's purring housewife. When the movie sticks to this plan, it works, but eventually it comes to a kind of twist, which feels like a small betrayal. A character like this requires total honesty; he needs to reveal everything. Unlike other Irvine Welsh movies (Trainspotting, The Acid House), the world of Filth is too limiting to contain its characters. It needed a bit more style.

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