How could your old pal, Cherdo, possibly pass up any
opportunity to frolic with Mock & Squid? I can't!
opportunity to frolic with Mock & Squid? I can't!
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Ewan McGregor (Mark Renton)
Ewen Bremner ("Daniel "Spud" Murphy)
Jonny Lee Miller (Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson)
Robert Carlyle (Francis "Franco" Begbie)
Kelly Macdonald (Diane)
Kevin McKidd (Tommy McKenzie)
Director Danny Boyle made one of the biggest cult films to come out of the 90s. Based on a book by Irvin Welsh, Trainspotting (1996, R) is one of those films that you love or hate. Personally, I've always loved this energetic cautionary tale of five rebellious lads from Edinburgh, even as it goes to all the dark, depressing parts of addiction. The lies, manipulations, false starts and perilous falls are all here and it's not pretty but the gang is tied together by the pursuit of the next high. Early on, you have to ask yourself if anyone is going to get out alive and "choose life."
The film opens with a security guard in hot pursuit of Renton and friends as they are running through the streets of Edinburgh after partaking of a few five-finger-discounts. With Ewan/Renton narrating in the background, the circle of friends are introduced. Spud is the good hearted pal; simple minded but faithful friend to Renton. Sick Boy is amoral and Sean-Connery-obsessed; his impression of the Scottish spy icon is perfect. There's clean cut, athletic Tommy and last but not least, Begbie, always looking for an opportunity to lash out, be offended, or just start a violent altercation for no reason at all. He lives for that!
Renton decides to give up heroin and obtains opium suppositories (not his first choice) to cushion withdrawal. One of the gag-inducing scenes in the movie is when a bout with diarrhea causes Renton to lose the suppository in "The Worst Toilet in Scotland." In a surreal break from reality, he dives in the commode and goes after it. Desperate times call for desperate measures...real desperate.
Holed up in his room, Renton suffers through withdrawal, eventually pulling himself together enough for a night on the town with his friends. He meets Diane and goes home with her, only to find out in the morning that she is just fifteen. That little surprise becomes fuel for blackmail; Diane wants to make sure Renton is wrapped around her finger.
Tommy is the only one who seems to have his act together and involved in a relationship. Renton causes their breakup when he takes one of their homemade movies and Tommy is never the same. Soon, Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Tommy are all back on heroin. After crashing at the local drug house, Renton awakes to the screaming of their friend, Allison. Her baby, tucked away in a filthy adjacent room, is dead from neglect. There's an uncharacteristic show of despair and remorse from Sick Boy and they all realize he was probably the baby's father. That particular scene is so powerful, it always shakes me up a bit.
Spud and Renton find themselves before a judge for their misdeeds. Renton gets off with his proud proclamation that he is determined to beat his addiction, while the hapless Spud ends up in jail.
Craving one more high, Renton nearly overdoses and his parents decide to take matters into their own hands and make him go "cold turkey" at home. It's a hallucination-driven scene meant to give anyone the willys and I don't want to ruin it, future viewers!
Renton decides to get away and build a sober life in London; he saves his money and rents a room. We see him writing to Diane, his jailbait friend. The calm ends when unwelcome guests, Begbie and Sick Boy, follow him.
While in London, Tommy dies and the three return to Edinburgh for his funeral. Spud, now out of jail, joins them and once more the toxic mix of friends take a downward turn. Sick Boys suggests that they take part in a lucrative drug deal with Renton providing the start up money; the deal goes through and they get a wad of cash. With their new found fortune they celebrate at the pub and Begbie does what he does best: attacks a patron, causes a violent scene, and ruins the outing.
Renton is finally over it. With only Spud as a witness, he takes the money and leaves while the guys sleep.
Once again, Renton vows to stick to the straight and narrow and "choose life." The closing scene is iconic! See it by clicking here...language warning.
Why do I like this movie? I've asked myself that a million times. Drugs, crime, death, and the same mistakes made over and over. Roger Ebert had a great quote about this film and the drug lifestyle portrayed: "But what else does it do? Does it lead anywhere? Say anything? Not really. That's the whole point. Drug use is not linear but circular. You never get anywhere unless you keep returning to the starting point. But you make fierce friends along the way. Too bad if they die."
Part of it is the action and energy of the film. The music is fantastic! The actors all give absolutely great performances; I don't think there's a slacker in the bunch. This was the film that first introduced me to Ewan McGregor and made me want to see more of his work. It's pre-Star Wars, peeps! And in the end, Renton is hopeful.
All I can say is "check it out!" If you can get past the toilet dive, it will pull you in. Watch it and come back to give your verdict in comments.