Trainspotting

on July 19, 1996 by Lael Loewenstein
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   A huge phenomenon in England (where it is the second-highest grossing British film after "Four Weddings and a Funeral"), "Trainspotting" stands poised for its U.S. release preceded by a great deal of hype.
   The good news is it delivers.
   An uncompromising, dark and hilarious film about a group of young Scottish heroin users, "Trainspotting" strikes a tone similar to that of director Danny Boyle's "Shallow Grave." But even the darkest moments in that film pale next to the black humor of "Trainspotting." In one scene that had viewers alternately laughing and dry heaving, protagonist Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) swims through a toilet brimming with human excrement in search of two opium suppositories, his last hit before kicking the habit for the umpteenth time.
   This scatological humor would be more off-putting were it not for McGregor's sympathetic performance. Renton and his equally addicted mates Begbie (Robert Carlyle), Spud (Ewen Bremmer, who originated the role of Renton in a stage version) and Sick Boy ( "Hackers'" Jonny Lee Miller) are an unsavory lot, but they nurture their sense of humor as carefully as they do their addiction to junk.
   Based on the best-seller by Irvine Welsh (the title refers to the British obsession of counting trains--a metaphor for indulging in a useless activity that gives one's life a sense of purpose), "Trainspotting" steers clear of windy moralizing. It neither castigates its characters as long-suffering addicts nor does it glamorize heroin use. Along with Brian Tufano's gritty cinematography, Boyle's fast-paced, edgy direction and Masahiro Hirakubo's tight editing make this 93-minute film a breathless, intense and unforgettable ride.    Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremmer and Kevin McKidd. Directed by Danny Boyle. Written by John Hodge. Produced by Andrew MacDonald. A Miramax release. Drama. Rated R for graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence. Running time: 93 min.
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