Slaughtering sacred cows with gleeful aplomb, Jason Bateman makes his feature film-directing debut with scathingly funny dark comedy Bad Words.

He takes the leading role, too, subverting his good-guy screen image to play a 40-year-old man who, for obscure reasons of his own, wriggles through a loophole in the rules and becomes a cutthroat contestant in a national spelling bee for children.

His foul-mouthed character, Guy Trilby, is thoroughly obnoxious, but we’re compelled too keep watching, aghast at his antics but curious to learn his motivation.

Bateman handles the edgy material with confidence and gets excellent performances from co-stars Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall, and particularly from Rohan Chand as the 10-year-old boy who becomes Guy’s sidekick, rival and possible friend. 

Certificate 15. Runtime 89 mins. Director Jason Bateman

Bad Words is showing on Sky Premiere today and is available on Blu-ray & DVD from Universal Pictures UK.