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Stars: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Broadbent, Emun Elliott, Shirley Henderson, Kate Dickie, Pollyanna McIntosh, Martin Compston, Shauna Macdonald, John Sessions, Gary Lewis, David Soul

Director: Jon S Baird

Forty years ago this would have been labelled highly controversial on the heels of such trailblazers as A Clockwork Orange and O Lucky Man. Seen today, it looks, for all its luridly graphic contents, curiously out of date.

Bruce Robertson (a vivid chance of pace for McAvoy) is an alcoholic, coke-snorting, tail-chasing cop (still vaguely bent on promotion from sergeant to inspector) whose life has been on a self-destructive downward spiral since his wife (Macdonald) took their small daughter and left him. Her on-camera observations on their happy sex life may give you a clue as the film's ultimate revelation.

Meanwhile, sessions with an outré psychiatrist (Broadbent) have only left Bruce hooked on pills as well as everything else. Haunted by his failure to save his younger brother from an early grave, Bruce takes out his hatred of life on his fellow officers, all of whom he sees as threats to his imminent promotion.

In his less lucid moments, when not introducing his younger partner (Bell) to drugs and alcohol, he is 'seeing' people with grotesque animal heads on.

A trip to Hamburg with the richest member (Marsan) of their 'guild' ends only in a drunken, coke-fuelled stupor. In between, Bruce makes obscene phone calls to Marsan's breathy wife (Henderson), planning to throw the blame on his hapless friend.

This man's an in-your-face, out-of-control, vicious misfit, only one of many dislikeable characters in the film, the one exception being widowed Mary (Downton Abbey's Froggatt) who may or may not be Bruce's salvation.

Events here are heightened to the point of a psychedelic surrealism not seen in the cinema for many years. Much spittle is expended in the cause of violent confrontation, with other bodily fluids equally distributed in confrontations of other kinds. Although dubiously cast, McAvoy gives it his all as the pathetic Bruce, venomously spitting out the X-rated dialogue; indeed if our 'swearing' ratings ran to five, this would be the film to get top marks.

David Quinlan

UK 2013. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour by Kodak.
98 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 3, Swearing 3.

Review date: 30 Sep 2013