Twenty years on from the first Trainspotting movie, and Irvine Welsh still cannae act to save his life. In the original, he took the part of Mikey Forrester, the Muirhouse-based purveyor of inferior opiate products, the one who sold the suppositories Mark Renton shat out in the bookies’ toilet. And he was delightful at it, smirking and giggling in his Wattie Buchan T-shirt, like the total amateur he was. He’s back as Forrester again in the sequel, fencing stolen goods from one of the many underworldly lockups and basement storage areas necessitated by the plot. ‘Learning the trade, eh, son?’ he says in a wavery wee voice, the voice of a man who has never been anywhere near a drama lesson ever. He’s almost corpsing into the camera, he’s enjoying himself so much.
T2 Trainspotting does the trick Danny Boyle did with the London Olympics ceremony, reflecting its audience straight back on itself, only bigger and nicer and much, much better-looking, wrapping it in a shiny gift bag, tied up with a bow. The premise is that Renton is on his way back to Scotland from Amsterdam, where he has been hiding since the end of the previous movie, having ripped off his mates in the drug deal that was supposed to have made their fortunes. That much it has taken from Porno, the son-of-Trainspotting novel Welsh published in 2003. In Porno Renton was away for ten years, but for T2 it has to be twenty, which means a lot more time and life-events needing to be sketched in: ageing and illness, loss and offspring. All this is managed with economy and the odd streak of random brilliance. The routine about Rangers supporters and their bank-cards – lifted straight from Porno – was funny anyway, and is even better in its expanded version.
But it’s always seemed strange to me that Renton, Spud and Sick Boy, thrawn and desperate sons of the disintegrating Scottish industrial working class, became such poster boys – literally – for the bright new Scotland of the early 2000s, with its craft beers and its blond-wood, obscenely overbudget parliament building. ‘Buying a Trainspotting postcode in 1996 was a solid investment,’ I read the other day in the Scotsman. Prices in Leith, apparently, have risen more than 200 per cent. How did they keep this going through the collapse of RBS and HBOS, not to mention the tanking oil price, on the slide even before the independence referendum in 2014? But the Trainspotting laddies have done great things for the local economy so far, which is maybe why T2 was awarded a production grant of half a million from Creative Scotland, and the Scottish Parliament lent them a committee room to shoot a scene in. The one, fittingly, with Renton and Sick Boy doing a cheesy presentation in support of their application for a £100,000 grant from the EU.
Four years ago, I sat in just such a committee room at the Scottish Parliament, when Donald Trump flew in to complain about a plan to put offshore wind turbines in the North Sea close to his luxury golf resort at Balmedie, near Aberdeen. I asked the Parliament’s press office if Sick Boy and Renton used the same room, maybe it’s the best one, they keep it nice for special visitors. ‘The scene was filmed in a committee room at the Scottish Parliament,’ was all the press office would say.
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