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Filth Reviews

As far as major motion pictures are concerned, many will remember Irvine Welsh from when his novel Trainspotting was adapted by director Danny Boyle in 1996. Those who recall that movieís abrasive mix of black humor, gritty drama, and hallucinatory, heightened reality will find that the tone of 2013ís Filth feels quite familiar and no less irrepressibly cogent. Adapted from Welshís 1998 novel of the same name by director Jon S. Baird, Filth is, on the surface, a chaotic joyride through misanthropic debauchery, but below that ever thinning surface layer is a wildly personal, despondently tragic, and no less insane character arc.   The story concerns an Edinburgh police detective named Bruce (James McAvoy), whoís gunning for a promotion in his department. Horny, hateful, coked up, and out of his mind, he jauntily channels the general appetite for malevolence that normally fuels his rampant alcoholism, hard partying, and borderline mutually abusive sexual relationships into a plan to sabotage the reputations of his co-workers, thus bettering his own chances of getting the job. Driven by equal parts bald-faced ambition, maniacal cruelty, and actual mental illness, Bruce does everything he can to covertly humiliate each of his colleagues, with mixed success; all the while, he keeps talking about the fantastic wife and daughter heís supposedly doing this for, whom we never really see him spend time with.   Tonally speaking, Filth is a pitch-black comedy, which is one of the reasons why comparing it to previous Irvine Welsh adaptations is so useful. Like with Trainspotting, most of the antics that occur on screen are played for humor, even though almost all of them represent absolute indignity and nastiness. Filth differs, however, in that these moments build toward something that eventually contrasts with that nastiness: vulnerability. For all of its full-frontal male nudity and hallucinatory jungle animals (both figurative and literal), it deftly depicts the frailty behind the callousness, and in the end, this is what sets it apart. Defying the expectations set down by the genre, the author, and even the first 20 minutes of the movie, Filth cleverly arrives at the inescapable truth that human vengefulness stems from human tragedy, that cruelty is begotten out of pain.