T2 Trainspotting

Trainspotting was one of the best movies made in the ‘90s. So when I heard about a sequel, I felt the same way I would feel about a sequel to Pulp Fiction. Why? Nobody is wondering what happened to these characters. Nobody was left hanging. Why ruin a great thing with sequels that are never as good? [save your letters; I realize Godfather 2 and Empire Strikes Back are great]

It makes more sense when there are sequels for films like Clerks. As funny and talented as Kevin Smith is, it’s not like he has a lot of opportunities to just do whatever he wants (especially after Jersey Girl).

Director Danny Boyle isn’t in that same category. He went on to bigger (but not better) things: 127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire, Trance, and The Beach). So, his reuniting with star Ewan MacGregory didn’t get me as excited as if The Beatles would’ve announced they’re getting back together in 1978. It’s more like the announcement I heard recently that Paul and Ringo are working together on new songs. You just kind of shrug and hope for the best.

And with very little enthusiasm, I sat around with fellow critics from the San Diego Film Critics Society, and we all spent 10 minutes laughing about how idiotic the title “T2 Trainspotting” was, and how it made us think of Terminator 2.

Then the movie starts off with Ewan McGregor on a treadmill running and collapsing. I chuckled as I thought of how the first movie started with him running from the cops, as Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” blasted through the movie theatre. Ah, so this is middle age for these guys. Okay, good start so far. And thankfully, the movie kept the smile on my face the entire time.

The story (some of it taken from Porno, the follow up novel by Irvine Welsh) has Renton (MacGregor) returning to his hometown after a health scare on said treadmill. He runs into Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), who is running the family pub, which doesn’t make much money. He’s got a hot girlfriend (Anjela Nedyalkova), who he uses to set up and blackmail local cops and politicians as they pay to have sex with her. He has his mind set on bigger things — starting a brothel.

Spud (Ewen Bremner) is working construction and enjoying his new life with his lady. When the daylight savings time confuses him and he’s late for work, he’s fired. That leads him back to the smack.

Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is as crazy as ever. Yet he’s in prison, so they won’t have to worry about him. Well, until he figures out a way of escaping.

As I watched this movie, I thought about my 30-year high school reunion, which is coming up in a few months. I remembered the 10-year reunion being odd. Everyone was just trying to brag about their jobs, their spouses, their new babies. It was like being in high school all over again, but we were in our late 20s. At the 20-year reunion, nobody minded talking about their divorce, or being laid off, and there was a lot less bragging and more fun reminiscing about the crazy times we had in high school. I decided I wouldn’t go to the 30-year reunion because it’s going to be rehashing those same old stories. It doesn’t mean I probably wouldn’t have a good time, I just don’t see the point. That’s the same thing with this movie. Basically, the only people that will enjoy this are the ones that saw (and liked) the first film. Everybody else…will be like the spouses we drag along to the reunions. They’re listening to conversations about students and teachers they don’t know. No matter how interesting the story, it only goes so far if you didn’t know the characters.

There were a few fun fight scenes. An interesting prison escape. A tremendous chase scene in a parking garage (those are usually done so poorly, too).

There’s a hysterical scene involving an anti-Catholic drinking song during a party for Protestant nationalists.

The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire, Rush, In the Heart of the Sea) is terrific, and there are the usual flourishes Boyle likes in his pictures. Interesting camera angles, jolts of pulsating electronica music.

Some of the songs they played from the first movie were annoying cues to a similar scene in this (for example, the piano of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”).

We heard Blondie’s “Atomic” in the first. This had “Dreaming” which fit perfectly, as two characters sit on a couch doing coke, ogling a pretty girl, and discussing their big plans.

We also hear Queen (Radio Ga Ga), Blur, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and The Clash (White Man in Hammersmith).

A David Bowie album is shown, but no Bowie this time. Of course we got a remix of “Lust for Life” (by The Prodigy).

A number of times in the movie, you’ll cringe at the references to the first film. They felt forced. Other times, they worked nicely as a nod to the original material. The picture just needed a few more fresh ideas. For example, the “Choose Life” monologue here just doesn’t work. Simply throwing in contemporary buzzwords is hardly an interesting update on the terrific original speech.

We all marvel at how Keith Richards is still alive with all the drugs he’s done. You might also think the same with these guys. Especially since they all look good (considering the amount of drugs they consumed/consume).

It’s crazy to think that Trainspotting came out 20 years ago. I remember walking out of the Landmark in Hillcrest after watching it…and being blown away. It seems like yesterday.

This is a fine way to revisit the characters, in a movie that could’ve been worse. Luckily they had John Hodge, who was Oscar-nominated for the original screenplay, back for this.

It gets 3 stars out of 5, but is strictly for the die hard fans of the cult classic.