It’s been more than two decades since we were introduced to the depraved junkies in Trainspotting, and the world has become a much different place since then.
So while T2: Trainspotting offers a unique perspective compared to most big-screen sequels, it feels like a class reunion — where everyone gathers for some nostalgic laughs about past transgressions and realizes they’ve mellowed out considerably in middle age.
Maybe that’s exaggerating a bit, since we are talking about the Scottish heroin subculture. Yet like its characters, this affectionate follow-up feels more technically polished than the original, which in this case isn’t necessarily a good thing.
In the film, Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to his gentrified Edinburgh neighborhood after 20 years to make amends with those he wronged during the first film’s cycle of drug-fueled mayhem. His former cohorts aren’t as well-adjusted by comparison.
Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still struggling to kick the habit after his relationship fell apart. Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) has inherited ownership of a fledgling pub but feeds his cocaine habit through more underhanded means. And hot-tempered Begbie (Robert Carlyle) uses Renton’s visit as motivation to engineer a prison escape, after which he’s hell-bent on revenge.
From there, they spend considerable time reconciling past and present, which sufficiently recaps the original film for newcomers. Each of the actors effortlessly slides back into their roles.
Its predecessor became a breakout success in 1996 and helped to launch the careers of McGregor and returning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). This stylish effort seems caught between its attempts to appease fans of the first installment — for whom some phrases and locations will feel familiar, along with the pivotal role of a toilet in a key sequence — and to blaze new territory.
The first film’s sense of anarchic, hyperkinetic mischief gets lost along the way. Returning screenwriter John Hodge launches his impetuous, carefree rebels into a melancholy story of regret and redemption that provide a somewhat awkward fit.
Taken in that context, the film manages some powerful imagery (courtesy of Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle) and tense confrontations. But it mostly feels like a ride we’ve already taken, serving to remind us of the vastly superior film that spawned it. Instead of its sequel, choose Trainspotting.