For The Love Of… Drugs (T2 Trainspotting review)

Against all odds, the protagonist survived the whole ordeal and came out the better for it.


T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner, Shirley Henderson, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald, Anjela Nedyalkova
Director: Danny Boyle
re-released on blu-ray June 27, 2017
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Audience Score 82%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Danny Boyle is an English director, producer, and screenwriter; best known for Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and Steve Jobs. He has won BAFTA Awards and Academy Awards for his films and generally prefers to keep the genres and ideas he works with separate from each other, but he has dabbled with sequels having now created continuations of story arcs with both 28 Weeks Later and T2 Trainspotting.

Boyle admits that while his films are all over the map, a consistent theme runs through each – about overcoming insurmountable odds. As Dave Chapelle’s impersonation of Rick James would say, heroin is a hell of a drug.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the 20 years since Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) stole £16,000 in drug money from his friends he has married and been living in Amsterdam. After going through a divorce which renders him homeless and being diagnosed with ACS, he decides to return to Edinburgh. Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner), still a heroin addict, has lost his construction job and is estranged from his girlfriend, Gail (Shirley Henderson), and son, Fergus. Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller) now abuses cocaine, owns a pub he inherited from his aunt, and engages in blackmail schemes with his Bulgarian dominatrix girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedalkova). Francis “Franco” Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is serving a 25-year prison sentence and is denied parole due to his violent temper.

Renton stops by his childhood home, where his father (James Cosmo) tells him of his mother’s death. He visits Spud at his flat, preventing him from committing suicide. Spud initially resents the intervention, but Renton offers to help him out of his addiction, telling him he needs to channel his addiction into something else. Renton then visits Simon at the pub intending to apologise and pay his share of the £16,000. They fight, but ultimately make peace.

Begbie escapes from prison and reunites with his wife and university-bound son, whom he wants to join him in burgling houses. Begbie visits Simon, and learns that Renton has returned. Simon keeps both Begbie and Renton unaware of his contact with the other.

Renton, Simon, and Veronika become partners in various crimes, using the proceeds to renovate the second floor of Simon’s pub into a brothel. They fraudulently apply for an EU business-development loan. Veronika begins an affair with Renton. One of Simon’s blackmail targets reports him to the police and Renton seeks legal advice from his former girlfriend, Diane (Kelly Macdonald), now a solicitor. The proceeds of their crimes are used up in legal fees. A menacing encounter with the owner of a rival brothel intimidates Renton and Simon into abandoning their brothel scheme. Veronika tells Renton and Simon that the business-development loan was approved and they have £100,000.

Begbie and Renton accidentally meet in the toilets of a nightclub, resulting in a chase from which Renton barely escapes. Begbie visits Spud and discovers he has been writing his memoirs, with Veronika’s encouragement. From the pages spread throughout Spud’s apartment, Begbie learns for the first time that Renton had left Spud his £4,000 share of the drug deal earnings. When Veronika stops by, Begbie takes her phone which he uses to trick Mark and Simon into meeting him at Simon’s pub.

Veronika asks Spud to leave with her, promising him half of the £100,000 loan money. He declines, but helps her steal the money by forging Renton’s and Simon’s signatures.

Simon and Renton meet at the pub, and Spud arrives to warn them of Begbie’s trap. Begbie arrives and knocks Simon unconscious. Renton hides upstairs, then falls from the rafters and gets caught in cables, which strangle him. As Begbie attempts to finish killing Renton, Simon revives and uses pepper spray on Begbie. As Begbie retrieves and loads a shotgun, Spud knocks him unconscious with a toilet bowl.

The three leave Begbie trapped in the boot of a car parked outside the prison from which he’d escaped. Veronika returns to Bulgaria with the £100,000. Spud channels his addiction into his writing and begins mending his relationship with Gail and Fergus. As Gail reads his writings, the implied title of the book is “Trainspotting”. Renton and Simon resume their old friendship. Renton moves back into his father’s home and embraces him before going into his bedroom and playing “Lust for Life” on his record player.

While this movie doesn’t have quite the same bite and rawness as its predecessor, it is a pure sequel, with the emotional pull between its ensemble cast and Boyle’s treatment of middle-agedness making this movie a worthy installment and bookend of these burnouts in a far off corner of the world.

Pros: It retreads what preceded in glorious fashion, we are happy to revisit the same characters twenty years later, and while the actors have aged themselves, each of the four leads provides the goods. Begbie and Spud in particular shine.

Cons: The constant references to the first film are a bit jilting at first and only feel necessary upon post-mortem reflection of the plot. I struggle with the limited screen time for both Spud and Begbies estranged wives. The relationship between Renton and Sick Boy feels strained, and not from the twenty years after the betrayal.

Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes

Points of Interest: Robert Carlyle decided to stay away from his family during filming because he took on so many traits of Begbie. Ewan McGregor and Danny Boyle had a falling out around the time that Leonardo DiCaprio was cast as the lead for The Beach, and only recently reconciled. During filming, the movie was titled Porno, just as the second novel was titled.

Sometimes what follows an opportunity is a betrayal, but fortunately for us this was not the case with T2: Trainspotting. Danny Boyle does continue his theme of having his character overcomes all odds and walk away a better person for it. Realistically, Renton should have died this time around, but as luck would have it, he gets to walk away. It’s a mesmerizing film to watch, and even as it features some caper flick elements towards the end, it makes sense for the story.

theories Summarized

I’ll admit that I had not seen 1996’s Trainspotting until just before viewing this film, so maybe I can’t hold onto the nostalgia as tightly as some other viewers might, but I think in this case it afforded me with the ability to appreciate both films upfront and without the rose-coloured glasses. This is a solid sequel, which no one should feel ashamed in indulging. And unlike drugs, you won’t feel the effects of withdrawal.

But that said, if you are feeling some Watch Culture aches and pains, fear not creative cuties, we have another serving for you below. Enjoy and I’ll see you tomorrow with some wisdom!


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