Sony Pictures 1 hour 57 minutes R
Danny Boyle seemed as surprised as anyone that he could get the original actors from Trainspotting together for another film 20 years later. The director says he didn’t want it to be an ordinary sequel and they even changed the name for a time to “The Least Familiar” to make it sound different, but that didn’t work. Boyle says what was most important was for the guys to be equal with each having their own story. And they all get their due.
If you’re a fan of the original movie, and even if you haven’t seen it, this is a fascinating take on what happens to drug addicts in Edinburgh, Scotland in the 90’s when they grow older, but don’t necessarily grow up. It’s emotional, scary, depressing, pornographic, angry, gritty, violent and sometimes downright sickening. Both movies are from books by Scottish writer, Irvine Welsh, who says he likes to encourage filmmakers to run the characters and that world…”and take somewhere where it’s going to work for them cinematically.” Scottish screenwriter, John Hodge, created the script. The accent may throw you at first, but you kind of get used to it and can get the gist of what’s going on. Boyle depicts how friendships can be complicated, especially among these lads.
Boyle says only about 1 minute from the first film is included in this one. The energetic young boys, Mark Renton (Ewan MacGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) got into a heap of trouble dealing drugs. They made a bunch of money, but Renton ran off with it leaving his buddies in the lurch. And they’ve been out for him and the money for two decades.
Now, after a medical episode, (based on oneScreenwriter John Hodge actually had), a doctor tells Rent that his heart is ok and he should be good for another 30 years. He gets nostalgic wondering what he’s going to do with the next 3 decades and decides to come back the only place he can call home. He knows he’s about to face friends who have become his mortal enemies. He appears to have made a life for himself with a wife, child and job and the money. But when his buddies find out he’s in town, a series of seriously uncomfortable confrontations follows. Some turn bloody violent to get what they’re owed. They want to kill him.
Have they all kicked the drugs? Spud hasn’t and nearly kills himself. That scene is visually creative but could make you lose it, especially if you’ve already eaten dinner. This is almost as bad as that toilet scene in the first film. But in the process, Spud becomes a sympathetic character. He lives in squalor, but has a heart. Rent tells him to go ahead and be addicted, but to be addicted to something less lethal. Interesting what he actually picks.
Simon “Sick Boy” played by Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) owns the bar next to the tracks. He’s a scary one who goes after Rent big time. So does the crazy Begbie, played with reckless abandon by Robert Carlyle ( TV’s Once Upon a Time). He and Simon are super violent and bigger than life villains. The fights are brutal.
Rent tries to reason with them. It becomes a roller coaster ride of extreme emotions. There are numerous chases and vicious brawls that look like no one could survive. Lots of old wounds surface and the phrase runs through the film to the very end. “First there was an opportunity......then there was a betrayal.” He sees his old girlfriend, Diane, played by Kelly Macdonald.And yes, the “Choose Life” speech lives again.
Simon has a girlfriend named Veronica (Anjela Nedjalkova) who is a gutsy but adorable prostitute working for him. She tries to help Rent with the relationships and gets in the middle. But she’s one smart cookie. You’ll see why in the end.
The music in the original was important and Boyle says the late David Bowie as well as Iggy Pop helped. He wanted to keep the same vibe going using some of that music. There was pressure to make the soundtrack of the sequel as good as the first. Iconic. Boyle believes that music provides an emotional trigger. Prodigy did a remake of Lust for Life for the film so it would feel the same, but different. And the Underworld did that, too. But Boyle wanted something new. He says he stumbled on a band called Young Fathers. They are from around Edinburgh. They didn’t seem very interested or impressed, but came back later with a soundtrack that surprised him.
This a raw, gritty sequel that picks the original story and takes it to a new level. It honors the original and keeps us curious about paths these blokes have taken and seeing what happens when they get together again. There is plenty of humor, both dark and slapstick. Of course fans of this 90’s touchstone movie will have to see this, but younger and older viewers will be drawn into this tale despite the despicable traits of this gang. Boyle has created yet another cinematic touchstone. Think he can get these guys together again 20 years from now?