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'Filth' an over-the-top wallow in the gutter

EntertainmentMoviesReviewsJames McAvoyEddie MarsanSundance Film FestivalDownton Abbey (tv program)
James McAvoy is the best and worst part of 'Filth,' whose stylings can only be called Danny Boyle Lite

"Filth," adapted from "Trainspotting" author Irvine Welsh's 1998 novel, is either lucky to have James McAvoy playing its lead character — a venal, corrupt, vice-ridden reprobate of an Edinburgh detective — or oddly unfortunate.

Although it's hard to ignore the full-throttled gutter intensity mixed with bad boy charm that McAvoy brings to Bruce Robertson, a man whose larkishly terrible behavior hides deep wells of psychic pain, it doesn't pair well with the bigger-than-life cartoon cesspool writer-director Jon S. Baird orchestrates around him. Even tastelessness requires some consistency of acrid flavoring, and "Filth" uneasily mixes a not-uninteresting character study in self-destruction with '90s-nostalgic stylings that can only be called Danny Boyle Lite, plus some regrettable pop psychology.

Buzzing around McAvoy's virtuosic turn are some great actors, including Jim Broadbent as a wacko doctor, Eddie Marsan as Bruce's milquetoast chump of a best friend and Shirley Henderson as Marsan's lustful wife. But they're like margin doodles rather than real characters. Only Joanne Froggatt of "Downton Abbey," as a widow unaware of Bruce's awfulness, offers a brush stroke of humanity.

The best you can say about the over-the-top "Filth" is that it's a brisk wallow, with enough elbow room to marvel at McAvoy's sinkhole aria of a performance.

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"Filth."

MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, language and violence.

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinema, West Hollywood.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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EntertainmentMoviesReviewsJames McAvoyEddie MarsanSundance Film FestivalDownton Abbey (tv program)
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