It has been 21 years since “Trainspotting” intrigued audiences with its blend of bromance, drugs and batty ideas often told with a thick brogue. Most of the current prime moviegoing audience 18-24-year-olds were either not born or too young to have seen the film that made director Danny Boyle a big name in American cinema.
Now, there’s a sequel with “T2: Trainspotting.”
Those who saw the original film will get a fun opportunity to catch up with Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Those who haven’t seen the original should track down a copy if you intend to see the sequel. It’s the only way to fully appreciate the whimsical and weird humor that Boyle brings to the film.
Not much has happened to the lads in two decades. Begbie is so determined to kill Mark that he stages an attack in prison so he can escape from the hospital. Sick Boy is dealing with a dying business and Spud continues to live in his own world (but maybe not for long).
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Just like the original “Trainspotting,” the sequel doesn’t rely as much on plot as it does on the charm of the four main characters. Both films are designed to make the audience a fifth member of this mismatched group, being allowed to listen in on inane conversations, be part of doomed plans and share a scant few tender moments.
None of what’s happened matters in the grand scheme but these four have never been part of the grand scheme. Boyle has always presented them as outsiders who dream big and succeed small. If it weren’t for the occasionally thick accents, this movie could have been set in any small town in the United States.
The “T2: Trainspotting” cast and Doyle have aged. Instead of the unfettered lifestyle the four lived in the original, this film shows signs of maturity. A lot of this comes from the guys growing from young men trying to rebel against their family’s values to parenthood (or potential parenthood) and the challenges that come from being in charge of someone else’s life.
All four of the actors turn in solid performances but it’s Carlyle who stands out in the group. He’s both a man on a mission of revenge and a father trying to deal with a son he barely knows. Begbie assumes that his son will want to follow in his crooked footsteps but learns that is not the case.
Carlyle’s character must be hard enough to allow himself to be stabbed just to get out of jail but have enough humanity left in him to let his son become the man he never wanted him to be. It’s the most grounded work of all four of the major players.
John Hodge, using the novel by Irvine Walsh, has crafted a script that includes a plot by the guys to swindle the government out of a lot of money. It’s a plot thread but the real interesting elements are the four guys. They are the kind of guys who you would buy drinks for at the pub but not leave to go home until you are sure they aren’t waiting outside.
It’s taken 20 years to get an update on the guys. But the film proves that the pish and vinegar that made the characters so much fun doesn’t weaken with time.