Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald deliver a sequel to their 1996 Scottish indie crossover hit Trainspotting. The movie is based on Irvine Welsh’s novels Porno and Trainspotting. Twenty years later, two of the three former heroin addicts Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) are clean of the highly addictive drug, though Sick Boy still uses cocaine as often as he can. Spud (Ewan Bremner) was clean too until he lost his job. Psychopathic criminal Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is serving a prison sentence – until he escapes.
T2 builds so directly on Trainspotting that you’ll want to watch that first. Mark has spent two decades in Amsterdam after taking Sick Boy and Begbie’s share of Trainspotting’s drug money. Before Sick Boy’s motivation inexplicably peters out, his and Begbie’s desire for vengeance drives T2.
Meanwhile Sick Boy is pimping his franchise newcomer girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) and promising to set her up as a brothel madam. Trainspotting’s Diane (Kelly Macdonald) and Gail (Shirley Henderson) appear briefly on the margins but T2 focuses instead on the male characters.
The narrative increasingly flashes back to or recreates events or scenes from Trainspotting, turning itself into a self-referential text. Renton bounces over a car bonnet in a frantic flight from a pursuer and dances to an LP record in the surreal environment of his ever-lengthening bedroom. Trainspotting’s transcendent freeze frame when Begbie throws a glass over a pub balcony, paid off by an unfreezing and a continuation some five minutes later, is rerun to no real effect and without the payoff so many times in T2’s first reel that you soon cease to care.
You might forgive these characters as young twenty-something addicts but it’s harder when they’re forty-somethings lacking the excuse of youth. Begbie was never particularly sympathetic, but Renton and Sick Boy also prove less likeable this time round. Unexpectedly, the one high point here is Spud reinventing himself as the writer/chronicler of the foursome’s individual and collective stories. He is moving on, whereas his three friends are stuck in the past.
And that’s the big problem. T2 doesn’t know how to be a good sequel to Trainspotting without rerunning it and falls back on convoluted plot and editing in the process. Trainspotting was perfectly timed at 94 minutes; T2 is an overlong 118. Trainspotting was made by a young and naive cast and crew and succeeded on its own youthful energy; T2 is a nostalgia fest.
T2 Trainspotting is out in the UK on Friday, January 27th. Watch the film trailer below: