One of the finest cinematic exports for some time

James McAvoy stars in Filth.
James McAvoy stars in Filth.

It could be argued that ‘Filth’ is one of the finest Scottish films we’ve had in years. Maybe even since ‘Trainspotting’ incidentally another Irvine Welsh classic.

In ‘Filth’ misanthropic schemer DS Bruce Robertson (stunningly portrayed by James McAvoy) lords over his colleagues in Edinburgh and shamelessly sucks up to his superior, Chief Inspector Bob Toal (John Sessions).

When Toal dangles a promotion in front of Bruce, the DS ruthlessly targets his five rivals - Peter Inglis (Emun Elliott), Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots), Dougie Gillman (Brian McCardie), Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell) and Gus Bain (Gary Lewis) - by exploiting their insecurities.

Unfortunately, Bruce’s mental state is precarious and when his plans suffer a setback, his world whirls out of control.

The only glimmer of hope is a young widow, Mary (Joanne Froggatt), whose innate kindness might drag Bruce back from the abyss.

Adapted from Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel of the same name, ‘Filth’ is a giddy and grim black comedy anchored by an all-guns-blazing central turn from McAvoy.

He has gained a few pounds for the role and looks sweaty and exhausted by the gloomy closing frames.

Supporting performances in Jon S. Baird’s film are equally colourful, including Shirley Henderson in breathlessly vampish form, plus ‘Starsky and Hutch’ star David Soul enjoys a hallucinogenic cameo, leading a boozy sing-along to his song ‘Silver Lady’.

Not since Danny Boyle’s breathless screen version of ‘Trainspotting’ more than 15 years ago has a film realised Welsh’s distinctive voice with such flair.

By necessity, some of the book’s devices, including a tapeworm, have been sacrificed to construct a narrative thread that we can cling to through the madness and debauchery. But the author’s twisted humour defiantly sticks up two fingers in almost every frame.

Filth (Cert 18, 93 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Comedy/Drama, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/Steelbook Blu-ray £24.99)

Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan, Shirley Henderson, John Sessions, Emun Elliott, Gary Lewis, Brian McCardie, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Broadbent.

Look out for more next week.