Twenty years ago, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewen Bremner), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) were the best of friends and the worst of heroin addicts. They managed to get their hands on a rather large stash, which they sold for £16,000, which Renton stole.
Fast forward to the present day. Spud is still a heroin addict. Sick Boy (now Simon) runs a pub with a side business of blackmailing recording and blackmailing men cheating on their wives with his accomplice/girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Begbie (now Frank) has just broken out of prison. And now Mark has returned from hiding out in Amsterdam, and he wants to make good on the money that he stole. Not surprisingly, Simon and Frank harbor quite a bit of animosity toward him. Frank wants revenge, and Simon wants to use him for financial gain. Spud isn’t interested in the money since he’d just blow it on more heroin, but he’s mad at Mark for interrupting his suicide attempt. So Mark isn’t the most popular guy.
This movie has been out for a couple of months in Europe. It’s been out in limited release in America for a week, and it played last weekend in Austin as a not-so-secret screening at SxSW. And yet I’d not heard a thing about it, so I didn’t have high hopes. But it’s surprisingly okay. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it surpassed my admittedly low expectations.
I really like that they didn’t go the “more of the same” route with the film. The characters are fully developed, both consistent with what we know of them from the first film, and gaining new levels of depth from the experiences they’ve had over the last couple of decades. Their emotions and relationships are continually in flux, but in a way that seems very realistic and genuine. There is no “forgive and forget” but at least there may be some hope of “acknowledge, be made, and find a way to move past it” (at least for some of them).
If you hate the first movie, then maybe you’ll want to skip the sequel. And if you loved the first film, then maybe you’ll be a bit let down by the sequel if it’s not what you were expecting. But if you liked (or were indifferent to) the original, go in with the understanding that the sequel is a very different film, and have an open mind, then you might enjoy it.