As the title suggests, this movie is a sequel to "Trainspotting," the film about five Scottish heroin addicts -- or perhaps three addicts, a drug dealer and a mate with severe anger management issues -- that was released in 1996.
I hadn't seen the previous movie, which is still famous for its gritty realism and throbbing soundtrack, and so I screened it at home before I went to see this new iteration.
"T2 Trainspotting" does reward the viewer who has seen T1. There are many references to the original, from the toilet scene to the train wallpaper to the characters' memories.
The mates, as they call themselves, now number four, and none is doing all that well.
--Sick Boy, now called Simon, has a pub, a coke habit and a Bulgarian girlfriend whom he films in compromising situations so as to blackmail men with families and jobs. His goal is to turn his pub into a brothel.
--Francis Begbie, now called Franco, escapes from prison and is still a sociopath. When his wife tells him not to pull Franco Jr., into his next adventures, he tells her "Shut the fuck up!" When Junior, a college student, agrees with his mother, Franco says, "Maybe I'm nae your dad, eh?" His Scottish burr is so strong that his early dialogue is subtitled.
Into this stew arrives Mark Renton, who straightened up, eventually, and who absconded to Amsterdam 20 years ago with most of the proceeds of a big drug deal.
Mark visits his impossibly patient father and then Simon, who is still angry with him. Fisticuffs ensue and then a reconciliation that involves robberies and fraud to raise cash for the brothel project.
There are scores to be settled, and so they are, generally. T2 has a bit more of a plot than T1, with its theme rendered, again and again, as the movie draws to a close. There are new, bigger television screens, and the familiar sharp camera cuts and pulsing music.
Long story short, the lads are still the same old boys they used to be.
The first "Trainspotting" movie was received as trenchant social commentary on hopelessness among the Scottish working class, but it focused mostly on improbably energetic heroin addicts. It didn't exactly glamorize addiction, but it made the situation more interesting than what we see in the U.S. today -- luckless people comforting themselves with cheap heroin and then dying of the stuff.
Screwed-up adolescents has been a theme of literature, and particularly of film, for generations now. Think "Lord of the Flies," "A Clockwork Orange," and "Kids." T1 was about addicts and small-time thugs in their 20s, rather old for the genre.
T2 is about people in their 40s who look unusually energetic and healthy for the lives they have led. If you wanted to find literary references for people of that age and disposition, you would turn to the novels of Charles Bukowski and William S. Burroughs, dark stuff indeed.