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MOVIES: A timely return journey for cult hit Trainspotting

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Ewen Bremner, Ewan MacGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle in T2 Trainspo

Ewen Bremner, Ewan MacGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle in T2 Trainspotting

Published: 30 January, 2017

Directed by Danny Boyle
Certificate 18

THE boys are back in town, and they are still up to no good. Danny Boyle’s much-anticipated Trainspotting sequel attempts to take us along the same tracks that his groundbreaking story of Edinburgh heroin addicts whooshed along in the 1990s, and despite lacking the wit and comment of the original, diehard fans will not feel they’ve been sold an underweight bag.

We are treated to a back story as to what Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie have been up to for the past 20 years and then given a set of circumstances so they can be thrown back into one another’s vicinity.

We meet Renton (Ewan McGregor) as age has caught up with him: no longer a smackhead, he is living in Amsterdam. You will recall we last saw Renton as he hot-footed away with a bag of ill-gotten gains, ripping off his co-conspirators. Now he returns home to Edinburgh, hoping to make amends. 

We learn Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still taking heroin and about to kill himself. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) specialises in working with prostitute Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) blackmailing people, while Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in prison, plotting to escape after missing parole, yet again. 

Renton and Sick Boy decide a new scam is in order to feather their bare nests. This time it focuses on a regeneration project in the Leith docks and EU money, but while this is the overlying plot, it is really a side show. 

The film is a canvas for the gang to fire off witty dialogue, reminisce about old times and re-introduce us to the characters that made these actors names. 

There are plenty of flashbacks to the original. A refrain taken from the first film of the opening bars of Underworld’s Born Slippy – an anthem for a generation for whom Trainspotting was a key cinematic moment – threatens to come in, but instead hovers about the score. We do, however, have an updated skit on the famous and much-copied Choose Life monologue, this time for the Twitter generation. It is bar stool preacher-politics, but works. 

There are recognisable themes in many of Boyle’s movies: they involve a bag of cash and a get-rich scheme.

Think Shallow Grave, Trainspotting (part one) Millions, Slumdog Millionaire and Trance. He does the same here, veering away from a comfortable reuniting of faces by having a fairly weak caper tale latched on to it.

But let us not forget Boyle is a great storyteller. His ability to turn the world’s worst-yet-most-watched event – the Olympic opening ceremony – into a live-action love letter to our collective culture, was an amazing achievement. 

This is no groundbreaker, but it is still a watchable jaunt and for those who remember the first fondly, it’s a welcome trip down memory lane.


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