Producer/director Danny Boyle’s filming of Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting back in the halcyon days of 1996 was a major sleeper hit and a cultural event, and while we didn’t really need one, here’s the sequel, 20 years later, with the reunited cast looking rather older – but then so are we all.
The now-slightly-‘Establishment’ Boyle and his favourite screenwriter John Hodge (partially drawing from Welsh’s own Trainspotting sequel Porno) try hard to evoke the heroin-high of the first film, but obviously can’t, quite, and this works best as a study of wannabe-hard men as they hit their mid-40s, a love poem for those charmed, pre-internet, pre-9/11 1990s, and a reminder of why drugs can be so alluring.
After a near-death experience at a gym, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) decides that it’s time to travel to the scariest place on Earth: home. Arriving in a gaudy, multicultural Edinburgh, he first tracks down the sad and suicidal Daniel ‘Spud’ Murphy (Ewen Bremner), whose life has fallen apart and is now back on smack, and then pays a visit to his onetime best mate Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson (a blond Jonny Lee Miller taking time off from TV’s Elementary, who accidentally slips into his Sherlock Holmes accent at least once).
Sick Boy is still a small-time criminal and blackmailer, with help from his sharp Bulgarian gal-pal Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova often stealing it), but he’s also looking to do up his late aunt’s Leith pub Port Sunshine, and Renton (who might be lying when he says he’s married, prosperous and happy) is soon considering helping with the tourist-friendly renovations.
But, of course, there’s still that shadow that’s long been cast on everyone: the still-seriously-psycho Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who’s spent 20 or so years in prison and has recently broken out after a nasty deliberate wound, and who isn’t at all keen on the forgiveness and redemption that the rest of the characters are looking for.
With Kelly Macdonald’s Diane only appearing in one scene (leaving Veronika to be the voice of feminine reason), lots of Boyle’s characteristically inventive flourishes, the expected moments of incomprehensible Scottish dialect, a few gross highlights and another cool soundtrack (which nearly – but not quite – again features Underworld’s thrashed-to-death Born Slippy), this wants to be as wild and brilliant as the original but isn’t.
Rated R. T2 Trainspotting is in cinemas now.