Stream This: James McAvoy is a giddy deviant in Irvine Welsh's 'Filth' - Metro US

Stream This: James McAvoy is a giddy deviant in Irvine Welsh’s ‘Filth’

Jamie Bell is unfortunately one of horrible deviant James McAvoy's colleagues in the Irvine Welsh adaptation Jamie Bell is unfortunately one of horrible deviant James McAvoy’s colleagues in the Irvine Welsh adaptation “Filth.”
Credit: Magnolia Pictures

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You’ve seen “Filth” before. It’s one of those bad cop movies — like “Bad Lieutenant,” or “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call — New Orleans” — wherein we’re offered the chance to hang with a sociopathic deviant who wields too much power. And yet that the one here — a Scottish detective named Bruce Robertson — is played by little, usually nice James McAvoy does make a difference. One can never get too worried about the guy who played the helpful faun in “The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe,” even when he’s propositioning sex from a 16-year-old, dosing himself into a psychedelic stupor or relentlessly messing with a connected friend (Eddie Marsan), just because he can.

Also helping is the tone. This isn’t a grimy, deep soak into depravity, as you would expect from an adaptation of an Irvine Welsh slog. It’s almost not even a dark comedy; it’s a comedy about dark things. McAvoy and director Jon S. Baird are having the time of their lives, diving into horrific deeds with big grins across their faces, depicting their repulsive antihero as a kid in a candy store. Good times like this can’t last, and they don’t: right on cue the third act reveals a skeleton in Robertson’s closet intended to dil up some ill-earned pathos. But at least star and director keep that deranged smile right up to the final moment.

Freddie Jones is one of the deformed John Merrick's (John Hurt) tormentors in David Lynch's Freddie Jones is one of the deformed John Merrick’s (John Hurt) tormentors in David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man.”
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‘The Elephant Man’
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David Lynch’s early career is nearly as strange as his movies. He spent years crafting his debut feature, “Eraserhead” (newly Blu-rayed by Criterion), a crawling, elusive midnight movie that exudes craft and madness in equal measure. There was nothing Hollywood about it, yet Hollywood called anyway (or at least once it was making a pretty dime on the midnight movie circuit). Before he was offered “Return of the Jedi” (which he turned down to do another sci-fi monster, “Dune”), he did “The Elephant Man,” which splits down the middle between conventional and Lynchian: It’s a triumph-of-the-human spirit deal about the grossly deformed John Merrick (John Hurt), but it’s filmed to look like “Eraserhead.” The script follows a familiar genre pattern, but Lynch keeps control by shooting in old-timey, otherworldly black-and-white. (Even Merrick himself, buried under a hyper-bulbous growth, is a Lynch sight to rival the sperm-baby from “Eraserhead” and the talking brain-fish in “Dune.”) In a way it’s the weirdest film he ever made.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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