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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Trainspotting

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle
Director: Danny Boyle
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: July 1996
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Cult

*Also starring: Ewen Bremner, Susan Vidler, Shirley Henderson, Peter Mullan, Pauline Lynch, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald, Jonny Lee Miller

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Mark Fleming read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

The cardinal rule for making a reviewer's life easier is to give high marks to everything you see. You especially want to praise popular movies, and most of all you want to save your highest rating for cult pictures with strong and vociferous followings. Nothing like grade inflation and ignoring your instincts for making your own life more bearable. I consistently ignore this rule. I am generally in the mainstream of reviewers, but when I can not stomach a show as I couldn't in TRAINSPOTTING I say so knowing full well I will get complaints. Less than full honesty isn't fair to my readers.

TRAINSPOTTING was a smashing success last year in Britain and made buckets of money. Its coming to America has been perhaps the cinematic art house event of the year.

TRAINSPOTTING is a far, far out comedy about a group of young heroin addicts in Scotland. Set in Edinburgh, this extremely explicit depiction of the heroin drug culture focuses on Mark Renton and his battle with heroin. He loves shooting up, but does on occasion try to give it up. Mark is played by Ewan McGregor who was Frank Churchill in EMMA and Alex Law in SHALLOW GRAVE, which is director Danny Boyle's only other film. For my money, SHALLOW GRAVE, flaws and all, is a much better film than TRAINSPOTTING.

Mainly TRAINSPOTTING focuses on the camaraderie of the druggies and of their humor. The ongoing joke has them trying just hard enough to get a job so they don't get kicked off the dole, but being sure that they are so repulsive that no one will actually hire them.

The dialog by John Hodge and based on Irvine Walsh's novel has many funny lines. If the images were not so horrible, perhaps I could have enjoyed them. As Mark Renton puts it, "Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a starter home. Choose dental insurance, leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose your future. But why would anyone want to do a thing like that?"

Most of the humor is visual with a subtext of isn't addition fun and funny at the same time. This makes for a hard to watch film, which isn't necessarily bad. I enjoyed HAROLD AND MAUDE about suicide and a lot of other films with shocking subjects, but in TRAINSPOTTING the filmmakers are so far over the line, that I could not like the picture no matter how hard I tried. I kept thinking to myself, what is next? Are we going to have a comedy full of realist images about how much fun it was to gas people in World War II?

Let me give you two typical scenes and then I will be done with this review. Mark's friend Spud (Ewen Bremmer) passes out and then ends up spending the night at his girlfriend's house. What with his going on and off of drugs, he has developed diarrhea. When he wakes up his sheets are full of feces. He takes his sheets into the dinning room where his girlfriend and her family are having breakfast. Her mother and he get in a tug of war over the sheets which ends with realistic feces going all over everyone and into the breakfast. The lingering camera makes sure you see in detail the feces dripping down each of their faces.

In another scene, Mark dives into a public toilet labeled, "the worst toilet in Scotland." He dives into the bowl to retrieve his lost suppositories. Never in your worst nightmare have you seen such a filthy place.

For completeness sake, let me say that the rest of the cast includes: Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, Kevin McKidd as Tommy, Robert Carlyle as Begbie, Kelly MacDonald as Diane, and Peter Mullan as Swanney. Although some of the cast do not use heroin, most shot up regularly and feed their habit through a combination of taxpayer's money and stealing from people.

TRAINSPOTTING runs 1:33. It is rated R, but why it is not NC-17 is beyond me. In addition to the frequent heroin usage scenes, there is violence, constant foul language, sex, and full male and female frontal nudity. Since the MPAA gave this film an R, they might as well just retire the NC-17 rating. I strongly recommend that teenagers not see this film at all. For adults, I will grant you that the show is imaginative and the dialog sharp, but I can not recommend this painful show to anyone. For a show I truly hated, I still will give it * 1/2 for the high energy and the clever albeit unbearable script. As it is, I feel like I am being ridiculously generous to the film.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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