Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Steven Robertson, Shirley Henderson, Kelly Macdonald, Anjela Nedyalkova. (2017, R, 117 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 24, 2017
Older doesn’t necessarily equal wiser in this much-anticipated hit of pure, uncut Danny Boyle filmmaking. Although unlikely to cause the cultural sensation of 1996’s hypnotically narcotic original, this is nevertheless an entirely worthy sequel, very nearly an overdose of bravura storytelling and adrenalized, gorgeous cinema.
Picking up two decades on, Mark Renton (McGregor) has returned to Edinburgh from married life in Amsterdam. It’s not necessary to have seen the original to get a high-octane jolt out of T2, but it does help to recall that Renton absconded with the drug money he and his pals Sick Boy (Miller), Spud (Bremner), and Begbie (Carlyle) stole at the end of Trainspotting, meaning that some serious grudges have been stewing for a very long time. Sick Boy, now going by his given name Simon, is running a barely-there pub while eking out a sideline blackmailing people having sex with his alleged Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (the thoroughly impressive Nedyalkova). He’s shocked when former best friend Renton shows up at his door and reveals that although he’s been clean for the interim, his wife has left him and his life is, in a word, shite. Amiable goofball Spud is still hooked on the junk and is busy trying to die, already, and psychopath Begbie has broken out of prison and is hunting for Renton’s head on a platter.
The gang’s all here, but T2’s crazed storyline (by screenwriter John Hodge, adapting from Irvine Welsh’s novels) packs a walloping emotional punch. No one is having any fun here, despite the return of Iggy Pop on the soundtrack; T2 is rife with regret, melancholy, lost youth, and (of course) a new, nihilistically updated “choose life” speech from Renton. This may be the most beautifully shot downer of the year, so woeful is its tone. That said, it’s also a pulse-quickening thrill to see these wretched once-upon-a-time rebels going mad for the racket once again. For once, they really do choose life. Even the frothing-at-the-mouth Begbie, whose fate I shall not spoil.