The effect of the uneven but stylish "Shallow Grave" was like a breath of fresh air through a beleaguered British film industry. It's wit, originality, and success ensured that the follow-up movie from the team of writer John Hodge, producer Andrew McDonald, and director Danny Boyle was eagerly awaited. The result was "Trainspotting". And in the world of movie hype, it had that rare quality of exceeding all expectations.
Central to this supremely confident film is Ewan McGregor. His performance as the heroin-enslaved Mark Renton still ranks as his best. He's well aware of how pathetic his addiction is, but he's utterly entranced with the highs that scoop him from the lowest of the lows. These severe mood swings provide for the darkest and most troubling moments of the film, as well as the funniest. At the most depressing end of the scale is the zombie baby, while the 'worst toilet in Scotland' hits a sick, comedy high.
And those are only two of the more extreme incidents in a movie that dares to challenge the audience. Renton's sad collection of suspect friends don't form typical characters that might elicit sympathy from the viewer. Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is a psychotic who revels in violence, while Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) peddles drugs without mercy, and Spud (Ewan Bremner) is just unfortunately an A-grade loser.
Yet, it's hard not be fascinated by this assorted collection of lowlifes, especially with a cast that burn on the screen, courtesy of an acidic script. The masterstroke is not taking the typically easy British film-making route of going for gritty and depressing. Director Danny Boyle directs with glamour and pace, aided by an inspired soundtrack, and produces a movie that shines with unusual ambition despite its British roots.