Reviving blockbusters or cult hits decades later is a trend that may quickly grow old, but it pays dividends in T2 Trainspotting.
At the end of the first film (released in 1996), Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) ripped off his friends after a heroin sale and fled Scotland. Now, a combination of personal crises causes him to return to Edinburgh. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is suffering from mental health issues from years of addiction. Sick Boy/Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) has partnered with a Bulgarian escort (Anjela Nedyalkova) to blackmail unsuspecting johns. The psychotic Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has escaped from prison.
The men all suffer from disappointments. After too many relapses to count, Spud’s ex-wife won’t let him see their son. Simon is bitter Renton ripped him off 20 years earlier and is now a cocaine addict stuck managing a failing bar. Begbie returns home to his college-aged son and finds, to amusing effect, that the boy would rather work in hotels than pursue a life of petty crime. Eventually, Begbie learns Renton is back in town and hopes to kill him.
While it doesn’t feel as edgy as the original, T2 Trainspotting still benefits from strong performances by its four principals and high-energy direction from Danny Boyle. The finale admirably avoids both a pat happy ending and snarky hipster nihilism. The men trudge on through disappointments and heartbreak brought upon them by chance and their own bad choices. It’s what most people do as they reach middle age and it makes the film relatable even for people who’ve never been drug addicts or petty crooks.