In “Filth”, we meet Bruce “Robbo” Robertson, a bipolar plainclothes detective in Edinburgh who’s racist, sexist, homophobic, addicted to cocaine, addled on various prescription drugs, consorting with whores, scheming against all his colleagues at work, making obscene phone calls, loveless, friendless, shiftless … Oh, and he has one or two redeeming features as well. Just don’t expect to find them very soon.
Based on “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh’s third novel, “Filth” is as squalid, disturbing and darkly funny as you’d imagine; it’s the kind of film where erotic asphyxiation winds up being one of the tamer bits. Director Jon S. Baird, filming with a fan’s reverence, pitches his film somewhere between Terry Gilliam and “Clockwork Orange”-era Stanley Kubrick, a sort of insane hyper-realism. The humor can be sophomoric at times — a scene where Bruce and his colleagues photocopy their genitalia being one — but the wired, unsettling performance by James McAvoy in the lead is relentless.
Anyone who’s seen “Bad Lieutenant” — either version — will know what to expect from this tale of a corrupt cop hell-bent on the gutter yet seeking redemption, but Baird pushes the film into far more surreal areas, and while a few of the novel’s rougher edges are softened, the ending is still appropriately stark.