“You’re a tourist in your own youth.”
“Face your past. Choose your future.” That’s what the poster for T2 Trainspotting says. Perhaps it should say, “Paybacks are a bitch,” something Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) finds out pretty quickly when he returns home to Edinburgh after 20 years in Amsterdam following his little fuckover at the end of Trainspotting. Ostensibly back to make amends and settle his debt, Renton knows that forgiving and forgetting isn’t so easy—or smooth. Truth be told, he probably didn’t expect it to be.
Renton finds Spud (Ewen Bremner) unemployed, still struggling with heroin, and literally killing himself—like, alone with a plastic bag over his head in his dingy apartment. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is a full-fledged douche, complete with a failing bar—the Port Sunshine—that he inherited from his aunt, a blackmail sex scam he runs on the side with a Bulgarian partner—Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), whom he fancies as his girlfriend—and a seriously unflattering coke habit. Oh yeah, he’s still bleaching what he’s got left of his hair. Neither is stoked about Renton showing up, but Sick Boy is clearly more bitter than Spud. He has a plan to get even.
Soon, however, Renton and Sick Boy are up to their old tricks, nightclubbing, tripping, and yes, thieving. In one of T2‘s best scenes, they head somewhere outside Edinburgh and hit a pub that looks more like an American VFW hall. It’s some weird open mic night for a crowd of Protestant Unionists who are rabidly anti-Catholic because of history. Explaining it all to Veronika in the car before the heist—the plan is to pickpocket as many ATM cards as they can get their hands on—Renton calls them “relics.” After a successful mission, the bouncer won’t let them leave until they perform a number. What they come up with is brilliant.
The fun and games come to a grinding halt when Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who’s serving a 25-year prison sentence and is denied parole because of his anger management problem, breaks out of jail and runs into Renton. He loses his shit in yet another great scene. Renton gets away for the moment but Begbie is on his trail, which leads him to a sketchy business partnership. Will history repeat itself?
I was skeptical when I heard director Danny Boyle was making a sequel; I guess I thought Trainspotting didn’t need a follow up. T2, which is loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s 2002 novel Porno, lacks the youthful vigor of the original and frankly isn’t as cool. How could it be? It wouldn’t exist without Trainspotting; it’s got flashbacks and obligatory references, some more clever than others, throughout. Kelly Macdonald has a fun cameo, Renton’s “Choose Life” monologue is updated, that toilet makes a brief appearance, and there’s a nice remix of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” at the end (and yes, we know it’s coming).
Still, T2 stands on its own. It’s fueled by nostalgia and revenge, which in this case turns out to be a rather interesting combination. T2 has more of a conventional plot, and it’s oddly fascinating. The dialogue is every bit as wickedly sharp as before. These boys have grown up—they’ve turned into sad men because they’ve chosen unfulfilled promise and disappointment (to use Renton’s words). Now they have to deal with it, which isn’t what I imagined them doing in 20 years—if they even lived, which they most definitely have. Surprise! We all know someone like this, right? I would see T2 again.
At a post screening discussion, Boyle said he really made an effort to connect to the original. He succeeded, in a good way. As for the title, he said it’s an homage of sorts to Terminator director James Cameron, whom the characters would simultaneously want to honor and piss off.
With Shirley Henderson, Scot Greenan, Pauline Lynch, James Cosmo, Eileen Nicholas, Irvine Welsh
Production: Film4, Creative Scotland, Cloud Eight Films, DNA Films, Decibel Films
Distribution: TriStar Pictures
Screening followed by a live Q and A with Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh moderated by Richard Roeper
(AMC River East) B
Chicago International Film Festival