Sage literary advice says that you can’t go home again.
But don’t tell that to Mark Renton, the guy who fled his feral life of crime, drugs and dissipation in Edinburgh’s nastier neighborhoods at the end of the depressing yet exhilarating “Trainspotting” more than 20 years ago. Now, in the entertaining if less groundbreaking “T2 Trainspotting,” he’s back in town even though two of his former running buddies — the vicious Franco and the conniving Simon, aka Sick Boy — want him dead for running off with their stash of the cash.
And don’t tell it to director Danny Boyle, who’s back at the helm and has gotten the original gang back together — Ewan McGregor as Renton, Jonny Lee Miller as Simon, Robert Carlyle as Franco, and Ewen Bremner as rubber-faced and rail-thin hanger-on Spud — to once again no doubt irritate the Scottish Chamber of Commerce with his colorful yet grim portrait of life beneath the kilts and the tartan.
Two decades on and not that much has changed in the world of “Trainspotting.” Renton has been living in Amsterdam and kicked his chemical addictions, but life for everyone else is stuck in 1997. Franco is now a father but he’s still a low-rent thug. Simon and his girlfriend, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), are running a failing pub in the middle of industrial nowhere that he wants to convert into a spa/brothel. Hopelessly addicted Spud is still, well, Spud.
Exactly why Renton has returned isn’t made clear at first — though he does visit his parents — but he ends up getting sucked into Simon’s plan to revitalize his bar. Meanwhile, fresh-out-of-prison Franco is having little luck enticing his son into a life of petty crime; the kid (Scot Greenan) would rather spend the time working on his hotel-management degree. Spud is estranged from his wife and son because of his addictions, and has taken to putting pen to paper to express his feelings about his situation.
And, yes, both Simon and Franco still want their revenge.
It’s easy to knock “T2,” especially if you’re a die-hard fan of the original. It’s lighter in tone, the accents aren’t as thick, the drug use not as horrifying, the soundtrack is less striking, and Boyle’s playfully kinetic style is no longer the shock-of-the-new revelation it was a generation ago. And, like many sequels, its joys often come from memories of the previous film.
Still, “T2” — with its brash sense of brotherly bonhomie that hasn’t mellowed with age — is a lot of dark fun. Working from a script by John Hodge (which is based on the novels by Irvine Welsh), Boyle keeps everything moving quickly, and his keen visual sense is as sharp as ever. One scene, in which a depressed Spud tries to kill himself, combines dreamy surrealism with comedic repulsion in a clever and amusingly discomfiting way.
Maybe you can’t really go home again, but you still can have a good time trying to get there.
Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas; Angelika Plano; Opens March 31 at AMC Grapevine Mills; Ridgmar Mall 13, Fort Worth; The Movie Tavern at W. 7th, Fort Worth; The Parks at Arlington; Cinemark Legacy 24, Plano.
☆☆☆ 1/2 (out of five)
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle
Rated: R (drug use, strong language throughout, strong sexual content, graphic nudity and violence)
Running time: 117 min.