I don’t hang out with the same crowd I hung out with twenty years ago. Nothing wrong with those old friends, but people change. Some got married and had kids. Some got married and didn’t have kids. Some just had kids. Some got divorced. A few people died. I reconnected with most of the old crowd on social media. I carry grudges with some, but most I still get along with. Without a time machine, I couldn’t really go back to the “old neighborhood.” The club where I used to hang out finally shut its doors a few years ago and became a daycare center. The movie theater I went to as a kid became a dance club. The restaurant where I used to work has new owners. Even if I did try to go back to the old days, I wouldn’t even begin to know where to find those old friends. They’re all spread out now. On the surface T2 TRAINSPOTTING is about reconnecting with your past and your old friends, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
When we last left Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie, the situation was far from ideal. After a successful heroin exchange, Renton fled the country with all of the money, leaving the other three behind passed out drunk in a hotel room. During the ending montage, we find Renton leaving Spud his share of the cash, unbeknownst to the other two. Those keen to literature already know that in Irving Welsh’s sequel novel PORNO, Renton becomes the owner of a successful dance club in Amsterdam. In this extremely loose “adaptation,” Renton is back from Amsterdam, freshly divorced from an off-screen wife with no mention of any such nightclub. Spud is still using. Having been clean for a while and a successful carpenter, he has no concept of daylight savings time, and loses his job for being an hour late. He is subsequently an hour late for every form of government assistance, and more sooner than later is back on the smack. Sick Boy is now running his aunt’s pub, and a blackmail scheme with his girlfriend Veronica. Begbie is of course in prison.
Watching Renton reunite with each of the three is as entertaining as it is cathartic. An attempted suicide. A fistfight. An angry encounter in adjoining bathroom stalls. I shouldn’t ruin the bathroom scene, but it’s “classic TRAINSPOTTING” if such a term existed. It’s right up there with any of the memorable moments from the first film. Even when this sequel “rips off” the other movie, it does so in tasteful and interesting ways. It doesn’t follow the structure of the first film beat-for-beat as many sequels do. It’s more like they took the structure of the first, threw it on the floor, and rearranged it. Imagine if you could take a jigsaw puzzle, put it together, take it apart again, put it away for twenty years, pull it out again, and put it back together in an abnormal way, making a very different yet extremely familiar picture. That’s what T2 TRAINSPOTTING does as a film.
In the first film, Renton is the only character to emerge from the film as a changed individual, with every other character remaining essentially exactly the same. Here he remains that individual. Still off of heroin, his only addiction is “getting away from it all.” Begbie is totally incapable of change, and Sick Boy, well not bloody likely. That leaves us with Spud. To say Spud’s life is a mess would be an enormous understatement. As he continues to chase the dragon, he leaves behind an estranged girlfriend and son. His narration of a letter of apology to the two of them is just simply heartbreaking to listen to, and Ewen Bremner gives one of the best performances in the film. I won’t ruin where his arc goes, or how his change comes about, but it is vastly rewarding to those who love the first film. It’s so clever that I almost DO want to ruin the surprise.
TRAINSPOTTING was the movie that not only put Danny Boyle on the map as a major director, but also gave us our future Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor. And let’s not forget about a failed ‘eighties band called Underworld who re-emerged as an electronic act. Their new single “Born Slippy” was the highlight of the film and its accompanying soundtrack album. The track resonated with not only true fans of electronic music, but was also an outright hit in clubs and on “alternative music” radio stations everywhere. The current film is littered with what sounds like different mixes of their new version of the track, “Slow Slippy.” The music and sound design during the hallucinatory scenes are simply mind-blowing. We’re talking Underworld mixed with Queen mixed with Blondie. And I don’t mean a standard clever DJ mix. These musical collages are more like psychedelic collisions. Speaking of psychedelic, if this doesn’t at least get a nomination for best editing, it will be a severe crime. If you thought the editing in the original film was trippy, then you’re in for a big awakening. I have very little idea what cocaine and heroin are like, but what we have here is presented more like an acid trip, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Speaking of drugs, it always bothered me when people would say that TRAINSPOTTING is about drugs. TRAINSPOTTING is NOT about drugs. It’s about life. It’s about gaining the ability to CHANGE your life. The drug-addict angle of the story was only the method of delivering the meaning. And in the end, TRAINSPOTTING 2 (as I prefer to call it) is also about acquiring the ability to change, as well as reconnecting to your past.
My only problem with the movie has nothing to do with the actual film itself. Why didn’t it get a wide release in the United States? Especially being that Danny Boyle is now a very well-known director with several mainstream films under his belt. The original film was huge in the states. Why not try to repeat that success? I guess T2 TRAINSPOTTING’s moment of glory will have to be on video releases and streaming services rather than the big screen. There are some aspects of Hollywood I will never understand.
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Tags: Andrew Macdonald, Anthony Dod Mantle, Blu-ray, Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Irvine Welsh, James Cosmo, John Hodge, Jon Harris, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Sequels, Shirley Henderson, Trainspotting