Scotland, Drugs, Alcohol and Swearing, the four pillars of everything Irvine Welsh writes about. The man who is responsible for Trainspotting, one of the finest British films of the last two decades, has returned to form with this magnificent tale of debauchery, good, evil and psychosis.
Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a Detective Sergeant in Edinburgh who is hell-bent on getting a promotion, winning his wife and daughter back and he doesn’t care who is sabotages or hurts in the process. However, his plans quickly begins to unravel as he exploits his closest friend, Clifford (Eddie Marsan), and his mental disorders and past haunt him driving deeper into madness and desperation.
I think I’ll start by saying this film is not for the faint-hearted. If you can’t stand an hour and a half of violence, swearing, drug taking, sex (often rather unconventional and/or possibly illegal) and a shed load of disturbing imagery then you should probably steer clear of this one. However, for those of you who think you can handle it there’s a lot here for you to enjoy.
McAvoy is excellent in what I would describe as the performance of his career. He somehow makes a character that we should probably despise for his downright evil nature vulnerable and almost sympathetic. The character of Bruce Robertson has been through so much it is difficult not to feel some empathy for him despite his actions. The filmmakers should also take some credit for not shying away from making the film extremely dark. It is a comedy still but not quite as funny as the marketing lead me to believe. There is an awful lot of disturbing and dark elements to the film that make it as much a study of mental health as it is a dark comedy.
However, at times it did seem like they were trying to do a little too much in 90 minutes. Despite there being long periods of exposition or repetition that slowed the pace of the film everything still went rather frantically. I also believe that in this rush maybe the director Jon Baird and Welsh tried to deal with too many themes which were as wide-ranging as addiction to life and death. Although I praise their ambition I have to admit the execution was mainly lacking.
Despite, these weaknesses and shortcomings the film is absolutely carried by McAvoy who is on screen for virtually every frame of the film and was consistent throughout. Without him in the lead role the film probably would have fallen apart in my opinion because it seems like a very fragile piece which was only held together by a strong cast and their performances.
3.5 out of 5