It’s rare to see an outpouring of support for a sequel starring degenerate Scottish junkies, but that’s exactly what has happened with “T2 Trainspotting.” Director Danny Boyle has successfully brought back the main cast and while this doesn’t quite reach the subversive depths of the 1996 original, it’s an effective look at life for disaffected 1990s Gen Xers that don’t quite know what to do with themselves in their forties.
It helps that “T2 Trainspotting” works in more comedy, albeit severely twisted, than the original. There’s also a purposeful attempt at nostalgia, complete with clips from the first film and a few scenes that are flat out up-to-date copies. Those tiny moments are far more emotionally impactful than a movie about heroin addicts could ever deserve to be.
The movie begins with recovered junkie Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returning to Edinburgh after spending twenty years in Amsterdam. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still struggling with heroin addiction and he’s quite happy to see Mark as he left him 4,000 pounds of the money he stole at the end of the first movie.
On the other end of the “nice to see you” spectrum is Simon (Johnny Lee Miller), a guy still neck deep in filth using his girlfriend, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), as a pawn in some extremely seedy blackmail schemes. Simon hasn’t forgiven Mark for ripping the gang off and their initial interaction is an hilarious fight scene that could only be staged by the genius of Danny Boyle.
Of course, “T2” wouldn’t be complete without Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who begins the film in prison. Explaining how he gets out would ruin some insanely clever writing, but his appearance in the free world causes even more trouble for Mark since all Begbie wants to do is kill him for his betrayal.
“T2 Trainspotting” should be a disaster. There’s really no reason for a sequel to a 21 year old movie whose success was as much a product of the time it was made as the people who made it. It was the launching pad for now-Oscar winner Boyle and whether the mass public knows it or not, they know who Ewan McGregor is because of it.
Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge have created a movie that seems like logical steps for each of these now-beloved characters. It’s as much of a coming to terms with age movie as it is a dark comedy. When Kelly Macdonald shows up as an attorney, fans of the original should only nod their heads in approval while “makes sense” bounces around in their heads.
As one would expect, the four main actors are fantastic and slip right back into the roles that made them famous. Unfortunately for Robert Carlyle, he is so fantastic as a sociopathic criminal that he’s been typecast as lunatics ever since the 1996 film. Yes, his Begbie is still as wheels off as ever, but there is some humanity for him here (but not much) and Carlyle has one moment of clarity that should bring tears from any audience.
If a dark sitcom needs two actors from the United Kingdom, they’d do well if they cast Ewan McGregor and Johnny Lee Miller. Even though they share the most unfortunate and sad scene in the entire movie, the pairing is comedic brilliance. Some of their dialogue is immediately quotable and it seems like they are having a blast playing scumbags after years of being “good guys.”
The heart and soul of “T2” is Ewen Bremner, who plays the only character to undergo significant change. Bremner is heartbreakingly good and elicits the right amount of pity and there is legitimate joy by the time his tale has been told. He doesn’t necessarily outshine his cast mates as much as he has the juiciest role in the film.
It’s fairly mind-blowing that Boyle, Hodge, and the cast pulled this off as well as they have. “T2 Trainspotting” feels new and not a cash-grab rehashing, but purposefully nostalgic at the same time. It’s so well done that once it’s over, spending another two hours with these lunatics doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.
Debuts On Digital June 13 And On 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray And DVD June 27.