Twenty years ago, when Cream was a new-born baby, Trainspotting had just hit international screens, quickly hailed by the public and critics alike as one of the films of the decade.
The late 1990s, in all its fin-de-siecle paranoia, was ushering in a new brand of cinema that reflected the twisted, nihilistic ethos of the time. Tarantino was mashing genres and turning gore into humour. Guy Ritchie also took a dark genre in crime and turned it into something altogether brighter. But the big film that resonated most with Generation X, even if only for the distance it held between viewers’ real lives and the tragic plot of the film’s trashy protagonists, was Trainspotting.
Irvine Welsh’s story about a motley crew of Scottish club kids who get involved in a lucrative but dangerous drug deal was crammed with taboo, including a glorification of hard drugs, shameless underage sex, filthy faecal scenes, street violence, and a deadly disease (the HIV/Aids epidemic was at its horrific peak then).
Despite this dark and dangerous backdrop, viewers got a very natural high from the movie, recognising a text they could kind of relate to – at least the raving shenanigans of the film’s central characters. But audiences were possibly even happier for the fact their lot wasn’t at all as bad as the Trainspotting troupe’s majorly tangled one.
It helped, too, that the film had a killer soundtrack which featured the cream of ’90s psyche-tronica (Primal Scream, Underworld, Leftfield), Britpop (Pulp, Blur) and a hard-edge classic in Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life which acted as the film’s golden musical thread.
Fast forward two decades and T2: Trainspotting packs all the punch of the first film, and then some. But it does so without having to go to the Nth degree with all the crazy shit, and by that I do mean those literal, disgusting, shit-laden bathroom scenes. While there is one moment in T2 where you might want to look away from the screen (it involves a lot of vomit), the scat scenarios have thankfully been left out of this one.
The intrepid foursome of Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and Spud (Ewen Bremner) come together once more, with some of the characters in the midst of cleaning up their act, while others having gotten deeper into dirtier territory (Sick Boy has a sideline in making porn – videotaping authority figures having kinky sex and then blackmailing them for big bucks).
Each of the characters appears to have their own incentive for wanting to reunite: Renton to get away from a bad relationship and to pay back the drug-deal money he’d run off with; Sick Boy to try and dupe Renton for having sped off with said money; Spud for wanting to document the whole sorry story; and Begbie for simply wanting to see Renton dead for doing a runner on the other three.
In this tangled web of opportunity and deceit, it’s as though we get to see each character’s true colours – possibly due to the fact, too, that they’ve aged 20 years, and with a couple of decades must come a certain level of maturity (well, maybe not for Sick Boy and Begbie).
Complete with a new ‘Choose Life’ monologue courtesy of Renton that just about beats that of the first film, only this time of course crammed with post-Zero social media trends like Instagramming, Tweeting, Slut-Shaming and Revenge Porn, the fast and furious dialogue in T2 ought to appeal enough to cross generations.
While some might consider Renton’s speech as a has-been Gen-X-er criticising the superficial social connections of the contemporary age, these might also be folks expecting to see bigger shit scenes, heavier drug abuse and, yes, nihilism to the Nth degree.
Sorry to disappoint, if this is what you were expecting, but Trainspotting Part II actually presents a rather opposite message. Not to want to put a spoiler on it, let’s just say the subliminal image in the film of a young George Michael in his Wham! days wearing a day-glo ‘Choose Life’ t-shirt is pretty much what the majority of these one-time bad boys end up emulating. Like I said, with a couple of decades ought to come a certain level of maturity… Or regression, depending on how you see it.
Not that T2 is one big trip down memory lane, for as much as there are nostalgic references scattered throughout the film, there are just as many fresh references and surprising twists and detours.
As for the soundtrack, it’s as awesome as you’d expect, with some of the usual suspects back to give us more heady techno (Iggy Pop’s Lust gets a Prodigy remix and Underworld’s Born Slippy is teased throughout the film in various guises) and there’s a nice balance of retro (Blondie, Queen) and progressive (Young Fathers, High Contrast).
One thing’s for sure: you should choose to see this movie.
Then Tweet/Instagram/Facebook or do whatever the heck you want with it.
In sum from my point of view? Like! Antonino Tati
‘T2 Trainspotting’ hits Australian cinemas February 23.