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James McAvoy stars in a breathless adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Filth

FILTH (18)

James MacAvoy as Bruce Robertson in Filth

James MacAvoy as Bruce Robertson in Filth

Everyone is above the law, not least the police, in Jon S Baird’s giddy and grim black comedy adapted from Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel of the same name.

Infused with directorial brio and no-holds-barred performances from an excellent ensemble cast, Filth mixes a heady cocktail of sex, drugs and wanton violence then spikes the noxious brew with a generous dash of racism and homophobia.

Those of a nervous disposition will be fortunate to survive the opening five minutes unscathed, as Baird paints a wickedly funny portrait of Edinburgh’s police force as a boy’s club of degenerates and scoundrels, who commit adultery and gleefully sabotage a colleague’s chances of promotion.

Not since Danny Boyle’s breathless screen version of Trainspotting more than 15 years ago has a film realised Welsh’s distinctive voice with such flair.

By necessity, some of the book’s devices, including a tapeworm, have been sacrificed to construct a narrative thread that we can cling to through the madness and debauchery.

But the author’s twisted humour defiantly sticks up two fingers in almost every frame.

Glasgow’s golden boy James McAvoy takes the sheen off his nice-guy screen image as misanthropic schemer, DS Bruce Robertson, who lords over his colleagues and shamelessly sucks up to his superior, Chief Inspector Bob Toal (John Sessions).

When Toal dangles a promotion in front of Bruce, the DS ruthlessly targets his five rivals – Peter Inglis (Emun Elliott), Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots), Dougie Gillman (Brian McCardie), Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell) and Gus Bain (Gary Lewis) – by exploiting their insecurities.

So Bruce scrawls graffiti on the station’s toilet wall questioning Peter’s sexuality, teases Ray about the size of his manhood and sleeps with Dougie’s beloved wife Chrissie (Kate Dickie).

Unfortunately, Bruce’s mental state is precarious and when his plans suffer a setback, his world whirls out of control.

The only glimmer of hope is a young widow, Mary (Joanne Froggatt), whose innate kindness might not be enough to drag Bruce back from the abyss.

Filth is anchored by an all-guns-blazing central turn from McAvoy, who has gained a few pounds for the role and looks sweaty and exhausted by the gloomy closing frames.

He drops his kecks for almost every female co-star then suffers nightmarish visions involving a psychiatrist Dr Rossi (Jim Broadbent) with a freakishly large forehead.

Supporting performances are equally colourful, including Henderson in breathlessly vampish form, plus Starsky & Hutch star David Soul enjoys a hallucinogenic cameo, leading a boozy sing-along to his song Silver Lady.

Baird makes light work of the trim running time, delivering a sledgehammer to the guts with a resolution that almost makes us feel sorry for Bruce, despite his heinous, self-serving actions.

RATING: 7.5/10

SUNSHINE ON LEITH (PG)

I’m not sure I would walk 500 miles and then sadistically walk the same distance again to prove my worth as a man.

Identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid, aka The Proclaimers, begged to differ in their infectious 1988 song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), which has become an anthem for Scotland’s national football team.

Playwright Stephen Greenhorn drew inspiration from these lyrics, and the entire Proclaimers songbook, for his critically acclaimed 2007 stage musical, Sunshine On Leith, charting the romantic dalliances of two friends who return home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Actor turned director Dexter Fletcher harks back to his early role as Baby Face in Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone, to harness the exuberance of the stage show on the big screen.

This is an unabashedly feel-good romp through matters of the heart that underscores its soap opera narrative with slickly executed song and dance sequences.

Admittedly, the set-ups are as hopelessly contrived as Mamma Mia!.

One character decides to leave Edinburgh to pursue their career in Florida to make sense of the lyric “Take a look up the railtrack/From Miami to Canada” in Letter From America, and a mother figure is named Jean so her husband can serenade her with Oh Jean.

Fletcher’s film is most powerful when it defies expectation.

The title track resonates deeply as a hospital bedside lament, sung over the body of a gravely ill spouse, and when squaddies sing Sky Takes the Soul in the confines of a tank, the omens of impending doom are unmistakable.

Davy (George MacKay) and best mate Ally (Kevin Guthrie) return home to Leith after a roadside explosive kills one of their band of brothers.

Ally falls into the arms of his girlfriend Yvonne (Freya Mavor), who is Davy’s sister, while Davy kindles romance with Yvonne’s best friend, Liz (Antonia Thomas).

Both relationships blossom and Ally buys a ring, intending to go down on bended knee at the forthcoming 25th anniversary party of Davy and Liz’s parents, Rab (Peter Mullan) and Jean (Jane Horrocks).

A dark secret from the past threatens to tear the family apart, propelling the characters along divergent paths.

Sunshine On Leith is shamelessly sentimental, tugging heartstrings with abandon, but the joyfulness gradually wears us down until we’re powerless to resist.

MacKay, Guthrie, Thomas and Mavor sing their parts with conviction and charm, while Mullan and Horrocks lend emotional gravitas as a long-time married couple in emotional crisis.

Musical sequences are delivered with gusto including a beer-soaked rendition of Let’s Get Married in a bar, which is countered by Hate My Love as young dreams turn sour.

The Reid twins enjoy a cameo early in the film, proving they will walk 500 yards on camera for Fletcher and co.

RATING: 6.5/10

HOW I LIVE NOW (15)

The poster for moody thriller How I Live Now shows Atonement actress Saoirse Ronan staring sullenly into the distance, headphones firmly blocking out the world around her.

You might assume from this striking image that Kevin Macdonald’s film follows a familiar route as the one signposted ‘Awkward Teen Who Finds Out That Life Isn’t That Bad After All’.

Thankfully, the picture treads a different path.

Adapted from Meg Rosoff’s young adult novel of the same name, the story centres on a New Yorker called Daisy (Ronan), who suffers from obsessive tendencies and is sent to England to spend the summer with her British cousins in the country.

Initially, there is friction as 15-year-old Daisy meets her Aunt (Anna Chancellor) and cousins, sensitive Edmond (George MacKay), sweet natured Isaac (Tom Holland) and bubbly baby of the bunch, Piper (Harley Bird).

No sooner has Daisy settled in to her unfamiliar surroundings than things start to get really weird.

After her aunt goes to Switzerland for business, Daisy and Edmond start to fall in love.

The young lovebirds have to put their romance on hold when a series of bombs hits the UK, all electricity is cut off and war is declared.

When boys and girls are separated, a distraught Daisy and Piper are packed off to live with a peculiar older couple in a Barratt Home in the middle of nowhere.

With Edmond’s parting message to find a way back home ringing in Daisy’s ears, she and Piper escape from the house and try to track down Edmond and Isaac.

Life in the wilderness becomes dangerous and before long, Daisy and Piper’s lives are in peril and depressingly enough, they’re no closer to the boys.

Guided by Edmond’s words and vivid dreams of him, Daisy ploughs on and tries to reunite with her beloved.

Acclaimed director Macdonald recently said that audiences might be divided into those who prefer the first half and those who favour the second.

While there may be people who enjoy the slightly softer opening act, there is a consistently dark thread throughout the film that means the second half doesn’t feel out of place.

The film is blessed with rock solid performances from the young cast and the glorious Welsh countryside.

A pleasantly dark antidote to the usual sugary doses of big screen teen angst.

RATING: 6/10

THANKS FOR SHARING (15)

Russell Brand, Michael Douglas, David Duchovny and Charlie Sheen have all confessed to suffering from sex addictions that have impacted negatively on their careers.

Medics might dispute whether these urges are truly an addiction or the manifestation of deeper problems but treatment remains the same as tackling drink and drug abuse: identify and admit the problem then change the self-destructive behaviour.

Directed by Stuart Blumberg, Thanks For Sharing is a sensitively handled drama comedy that address the thorny subject of sex addiction through the eyes of three men, who are at constantly war with their physical desires.

There’s a lot of frank discourse in the script, co-written by Matt Winston, and vivid scenes of characters succumbing to temptation in front of their computer screens.

While the online fantasises are undeniably X-rated, Blumberg’s film aims for something less lurid, balancing brash comedy with tearful confessions.

He is aided by a strong ensemble cast including Alecia Moore, aka pop star P!nk, who could easily swap the recording studio for the film set on this evidence.

Adam (Mark Ruffalo) has been ‘sober’ for five years and celebrates in the company of his sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins) and other addicts.

“I remember when I couldn’t go five days,” jokes Adam, who has developed techniques, which he hopes to pass on to his sponsee, ER doctor Neil (Josh Gad).

The young medic initially lies about his progress but the arrival of a hairdresser called Dede (Moore) unexpectedly helps Neil to bares his soul: “I’m out of control, I’m scared and I need help!”

Meanwhile, Mike confronts the demons of the past when his drug addict son Danny (Patrick Fugit) returns home to make amends, and Adam dips his toes back into the dating pool with a breast cancer survivor called Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Thanks For Sharing hits all of the emotional notes but is strangely underwhelming, even with the starry cast putting themselves through the wringer.

One character’s inevitable fall from grace is counterbalanced by the tentative rise of another, reminding us that addicts are surrounded by temptation and cannot afford to let down their defences.

Robbins and Ruffalo are solid in underwritten roles and there’s a palpable spark on screen between the latter and Paltrow.

Gad brings humour and vulnerability to his loner, whose views of women might stem from his relationship with his overly protective mother (Carol Kane).

Joely Richardson is poorly served as Mike’s long-suffering wife, who has made many numerous sacrifices for her marriage.

Arguably, Blumberg’s film doesn’t make enough sacrifices and plays safe, hinting at the dark nooks and crannies of the human psyche that could be probed in a braver and more compelling film.

RATING: 6/10