Did you ever want to relive the anarchic, groundbreaking glory of the original Trainspotting? So did its cast.
With rare exceptions, a la Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, has a film heralding a once largely unknown cast and crew gone on to become the wellspring of such ubiquitous talent, given then 20-somethings Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle and Director Danny Boyle striking movie-gold in the mid-90’s.
A sequel oft-mooted but never realised, with the original’s A-listers now having navigated everything from Star Wars to the Olympic Games it was time to have another go. Set some 20 years later; one of the infamous crew, dragging all of us in tow, returns to Edinburgh to find a lot that’s changed, and much else that’s stayed the same.
Some fan-service is not unexpected yet Boyle, helming his first-ever follow-up, delivers here an affectionate companion-piece which never manages to explicate itself from the overwhelming success of its predecessor. If you’re itching, like all of us, to see Begbie (Carlyle) at his worst, the best you’ll get is he and Spud (Ewen Bremner) literally recounting his most memorable outburst from the original to which none of his T2 sequences hold a candle. Renton (McGregor) pausing in front of a shocked driver with his trademark grin or the crew revisiting Scotland’s rolling hills never rises far beyond a light nostalgia. Frustratingly, it’s never hard to ‘see what they did there.’
Kelly Macdonald, too a break-out star of the original, is here relegated to one scene alone, with Sick Boy’s (Miller) yet unforeseen and markedly less interesting business partner/girlfriend (Anjela Nedyalkova) the only new character the subject of any significant development or focus.
The problem here is that almost anyone going see the sequel is either a fan of the original and remembers all the salient points or otherwise made the effort in the past few weeks to catch up on the now classic trend-setter, rendering many of the flashbacks, recounting of past events or sly to none-too-subtle re-enactments largely unengaging and unnecessary. The stand-out moments in T2, namely the grifting of a local club, the hilarious reintroduction of two characters in a bathroom stall and an averted suicide attempt that bear all the urgent, mutinous, uniquely comic hallmarks of the original, as well as Boyle’s subversive direction at it’s absolute best, are here sadly the exception rather than the rule.
T2’s score amongst its strongest assets, additions from Blondie, Queen, The Clash and notably, in one of the subtler references to the original, James Bond flick You Only Live Twice, alongside the undeniable talent of its cast and joy at times in seeing them reunited will make for a decent night at the cinema/walk down memory lane. Those hoping for anything on the level of the baby crawling on the ceiling or Renton falling through the floor will be disappointed with a picture that conscientiously tries but never manages to equal the spirit of its far superior predecessor.
T2 Trainspotting is in cinemas on February 23