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Film review: Baird's scabrous tale Filth is fuzzy in the head

Dir. Jon S Baird. Starring James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, 97mins

Upon its publication in 1998, shortly after the adaptation of Trainspotting had made him a literary sensation, Irvine Welsh's scabrous and quite disgusting novel Filth seemed like a perverse attempt to write something unfilmable. For what it's worth, 15 years on, this diluted adaptation suggests that he succeeded.

James McAvoy does his best to overcome his innate likeableness but is still miscast as Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson: a corrupt, coke-snorting, prostitute-visiting, irredeemably unpleasant character who makes Harvey Keitel's Bad Lieutenant look like Juliet Bravo.

The director Jon S Baird favours exaggerated close-ups and off-kilter compositions, to better describe Robertson's fracturing psyche – but the incoherent storytelling does it just as well. The tone suggests that he's playing for laughs that just aren't forthcoming.

And unfortunately, he doesn't have Danny Boyle's knack for making a low-budget film look polished. So while Filth is probably still the second best film of an Irvine Welsh book, it's far closer to The Acid House and Ecstasy than it is Trainspotting.