Almost two decades since Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh is once again the man of the moment. His prequel to that groundbreaking novel, Skagboys, is just out (doing little to dispel the claim he’s a one-trick pony) and now he’s back on the big screen with an adaptation of his trilogy of novellas, Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance. It will do nothing to appease his critics.
Director Rob Heydon takes the longest – and weakest – of the three stories and weaves it into a run-of-the-mill gangster yarn with a bolt-on love story.
Ecstasy’s characters are woefully two-dimensional: either good guys or unspeakably awful guys. The love-interest – and that is the sum-total of Heather Thompson’s role in the proceedings – never looks less than immaculate, despite discovering a fondness for all-night parties and recreational drug use. She grins nervously throughout the movie like a sexually awakening fawn, speaking in a hushed whisper that gives the impression she’s forever on the cusp of a gigantic orgasm.
Ecstasy is filled with ‘90s clubbing references, with John Digweed starring as himself and Tiësto thundering from the speakers. Every 10 minutes there’s a scene featuring lots of pretty, sweaty people dancing and tripping out of their minds, usually cut with moody montages of sunrises over Edinburgh and pretty, sweaty people smoking.
Every once in a while there is a recognisably Welshian speech about the nature of drugs and working class society but it rarely feels like anything but Trainspotting-lite.
In the end it amounts to little more than a second-rate Human Traffic that arrived 13 years too late, barely worth a footnote in the ongoing story of Irvine Welsh.
First published in City A.M.