Twenty years ago, the world was introduced to Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie and Spud, as Irvine Welsh’s characters were brought to life on the big screen in Trainspotting. For those unfamiliar with the original, it’s the story of lower-class Scottish lads, most of whom are junkies, and the scheme they come up with to make some quick cash. Trainspotting 2 catches up to see where life has taken each of them and how, once again, they end up concocting another money making scheme.
First off, I’ll say that if you enjoyed Trainspotting, you’ll love the sequel. The original cast returned for it, including Ewan McGregor as Renton, Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy and Robert Carlyle as Begbie. And it has the same level of energy as the first, with a great soundtrack to boot. You don’t even need to have seen the previous movie recently either, as there are plenty of quick flashbacks and reminders along the way.
The plot is pretty fast paced and works well. It’s mostly based on Welsh’s follow-up novel Porno, which finds the guys getting involved in, you guessed it, the porn industry. That’s swapped out for converting the top floor of a pub run by Sick Boy into a “spa” (aka bordello), which makes sense for the setting. And where the novel is set only 10 years after Trainspotting, having the movie set 20 years later gives a better sense of the lives lived and seeing whether anyone has settled into a “normal” life.
The characters are all as fans remember them, with Renton swapping his heroin addiction out for becoming a fitness buff, Sick Boy enjoying scams and making his money via blackmail, Spud still trying to find redemption and Begbie doing what he does best – beat people up and steal things. And, of course, everything is full on Scottish, from the familiar settings around Edinburgh to the hardcore accents.
Trainspotting 2 alternates between fun, harrowing, dramatic and genuinely funny. The crazy energy of the characters and the plot means there’s always something to pay attention to and the film never feels like it drags, even when characters are just having simple conversations. It’s not a deep, meaningful movie, but it’s a good one. And, for fans of the first, the modernized version of Renton’s “Choose Life” speech is worth the price of admission.