The dirty, picaresque cult classic is back 20 years later, plunging the original cast into the black comedy and pessimism of Scottish drug culture. Director Danny Boyle called Trainspotting ‘Scotland’s Star Wars’ and for the first 10 minutes, you feel like you need to turn the subtitles on to understand the broad accent. Renton (Ewan McGregor) being water-boarded with Irn-Bru is just short of a lump of haggis and a kilt from being the most Scottish thing I have ever clamped my eyes on.
The first Trainspotting film became notorious for its eye-shielding scenes of dead baby hallucinations and disgusting public toilet diving antics that scarred us all for life. However this follow up has not tried to out-do its predecessor, in fact it is not particularly gross at all. Renton returns to Edinburgh after running away with the loot the group bagged 20 years ago. Although Simon/Sickboy (Johnny Lee Miller) is bitter about the past, he joins forces with Renton to turn his pub into a brothel. However, the most bitter of all is Franco (Robert Carlyle), who puts his life on the line to get his revenge.
Simon says “you are a tourist of your own youth”, and that sums up the vibe of the film entirely. It is nostalgia intensified which can only be appreciated if you had a connection with the 1996 classic. All of the original cast including Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle slot back into their characters perfectly.
Although it ‘takes you back’ so to speak, it is also shamelessly modernised to show how technology has evolved. Modern Edinburgh tram systems, iPhones and social media are all exposed to show how some things have changed so much, yet drug culture has changed very little. Renton’s infamous ‘choose life’ speech is adapted to fit modern life by mentioning, Twitter, Instagram and reality TV in a poignant yet brutal reminiscence of the original.
First published in Marketplace Magazine, Bourne.