Trainspotting 2 (2017)
The original Trainspotting was one of my favorite movies of the 90's. The sequel picks up 20 years later and re-introduces us to the main characters from the first film. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) has been hiding out abroad in Amsterdam for the past 20 years and is now just returning to Edinburgh for a short visit. The reason he gives for his visit is to return the cut of the money he stole from his best friend, Simon aka "Sick Boy" (Johnny Lee Miller) at the end of the first film. Simon is still running scams, now turning to extortion and blackmail with the assistance of his Eastern European girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) and still indulges in his cocaine habit whenever he can. He has dreams of one day converting the historic pub he inherited into a "sauna" and illegal brothel.
Spud (Ewen Bremner) has been meandering through the past years in and out of menial labor with a broken relationship and a teenage son. Recognizing his failures he leaves his family and is just about at the end of his rope.
Begbie (Robert Carlyle) , the volatile hot-head, is in prison and has just been denied parole. He contrives a prison escape and reunites with his wife and teenage son and is soon back to penny-ante stick-ups and robberies: the only thing he knows.
When Simon and Mark get together, the past betrayal overshadows their reunion. But as they spend time together, their past friendship, which stems back to childhood, also begins to rekindle.
Trainspotting 2 is once again directed by Danny Boyle. While the sequel does not indulge in the same degree of visual flights of fancy as the original, there are still plenty of flourishes littered throughout the nearly 2 hour run time. Gone also is the voice over narration provided by Mark as in the original.
There are some problems that T2 has trouble overcoming. First of all, the time between the events of the first movie and this (20 years) just feels too long. Characters remember events with clarity like they were just yesterday, and hang on to decades old grudges that percolate near the surface. It's like they didn't have any other successes or disappointments in the 20 years since the events of T1.
Secondly, the characters not only revel in the past, they dwell on it. They repeat it. T2 frequently cuts back to shots taken directly from T1. Characters reminisce about exact scenes from T1. It seems self-indulgent and distracting on Boyle's part. The creative forces should trust in their characters enough to give them a story that can largely stand on its own.
Thirdly, one of the attractions to sequels is that the characters are already established and minimal time is needed to get to the main plot. Not so here. At the end of T1 the characters are scattered. After 20 years, T2 needs to spend about 1/3 of the running time re-introducing the characters, giving us shorthand backstories of the past 2 decades, and getting the primary characters together. When you then add in the nostalgia factor in point #2 above, there doesn't leave much room for current plot advancement.
Fourth: 2 big plot holes:
Begbie is denied parole from his maximum security prison. He contrives and executes an escape from custody. He's on the run and goes.....home to Edinburgh?!?! He takes up residence with his wife and son....and the police never come looking for him there??? That's a bit much to buy.
Second plot hole: While Simon has a coke habit, it appears that he and Mark have kicked their heroin habits. About 3/4 of the way through the movie, Mark and Simon sit down to share a needle while a despondent Spud looks on. And that's it. The next scene they are carrying on as if it never happened. Given the nature of the first movie and its treatment of how addictive and seductive the drug is, to just have them carelessly shoot it like they were sharing a forbidden cigarette with no resulting consequences or reference rang false.
All in all I did like T2. It's not as good as the first and it does have some mis-steps and plot issues. But the characters did remain engaging 20 years later. 3.0 / 4.0