2017 Certificate: 18

Synopsis

It's been 20 years since heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) ripped off his lowlife friends and fled to Amsterdam with all the proceeds from a drug deal. Now clean, he returns to Edinburgh to make amends but finds that little has changed. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is living dangerously as a blackmailer. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is the hapless, unemployable junkie he always was. And Frank Begbie (Robert Carlisle) is still a raging psycho to be avoided at all costs... what's more, he's he's just broken out of prison and is not about to let auld acquaintance be forgot. Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge tap the same bleakly, blackly comic vein as their 1996 cult classic for a fast and furiously nihilistic nostalgia rush.

Director

  • Danny Boyle

Cast

  • Ewan McGregor

  • Jonny Lee Miller

  • Robert Carlyle

  • Ewen Bremner

  • Anjela Nedyalkova

  • Shirley Henderson

  • Kate Dickie

  • Kelly Macdonald

Review

Given how things ended between them back in 1996, Danny Boyle's Trainspotters were never going to take a look back down the rail track through rose-tinted glasses. The bottom of a broken beer bottle, may be.

And so it is as Boyle and original scribe John Hodge reunite former brothers-in-needles-in-arms Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie after two decades of (respectively) rehabilitation, addiction, resentment, and incarceration.

It all kicks off with Renton (McGregor) returning to Scotland from self-imposed exile in Amsterdam following the death of his mother. But having robbed his auld mates of their share of heroin spoils, he's not expecting anyone to roll out the red carpet.

However, he is alarmed to find loveable loser Spud (Bremner) with his head in a carrier bag. Unable to kick the heroin habit, Spud has teetered over the edge of despair. He clearly needs a friend.

Doing slightly better (though these things are relative), perennial chancer Sick Boy (Miller) is busily supplementing his income as the landlord of Edinburgh's grimmest pub with a sleazy sideline in blackmail, assisted by his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova).

And, would you ken it, the irredeemable Begbie (Carlyle) has just orchestrated his own breakout after 20 years inside.

A legend in his own criminal lunchtime, the moustachioed madman is disappointed to find that his teenage son is keener to pursue in a career in hotel management than armed robbery. He is, however, extremely interested to hear of Renton's return...

With its pursuits, showdowns and disputes over territory, the film pans out like an urban Western; a manic tale of cautiously renewed allegiance and cold retribution. Ach, there's even a hanging.

There's also much talk of opportunity and betrayal. Yet as a sequel this is an opportunity neither missed nor fully taken - merely toyed with. But by staying true to the nihilistic roots of the original, nobody could accuse Boyle or screenwriter Hodge of betrayal.

Boyle continues in the same feverish style, one scene barreling into the next in a flurry of fast-cuts, freeze frames and memory-jolting flashbacks. Call it retro-Snapchat.

Nor is Hodge out to reinvent the wheel, emphasising the characters' lack of advancement by reworking the most memorable moments of T1. Thus we get an all-new "Choose Life" monologue, more riffs on football, and another amusing encounter in a skanky toilet cubicle.

Sadly, the ladies remain distinctly second-fiddle, with Shirley Henderson and Kate Dickie particularly underserved as Spud and Begbie's respective partners. And while Veronika is given more screen time, she's basically just a cipher drafted in to bring the boys together.

Still, it's nice to see that Kelly McDonald's Diane has made something of herself. And Carlyle's Begbie remains the most brilliantly unnerving screen presence this side of Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito.

Fitting, entertaining, and true to itself, T2 makes good on its own mission statement: taking pleasure in other people's leisure.

Elliott Noble