Comparisons between Trainspotting and Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy are inevitable, appropriate and a total disservice to the former.
Both films are set in the Scottish narcotics scene. Both are based on novels by Irwine Welsh. Both open with self-reflective narration from a thickly-accented protagonist, and both see him searching for drugs in his own faeces before the first twenty minutes are up. And yet everything that was fresh and exciting about Trainspotting is tired, conventional and dull here. True, first time director Rob Heydon can’t be held responsible for the uncanny similarities between Welsh’s two stories. But the fact remains that — from the rip-off poster art to the inclusion of Welsh’s name in the title, Irvine Welsh’s Ectasy is an act of slovenly imitation that, hilariously, suffers immensely under the comparisons it so shamelessly wants you to make.
Ecstasy – forgive me for not using the cumbersome full title every time — centres around a trio of philosophising junkies in the long-standing cinematic traditional of philosophising junkies (really, only philosophising hitmen are more overplayed). Adam Sinclair (Van Wilder 2) stars as Lloyd, an addict and aging club goer whose smug, overwritten voice-over guides us through this lurid tale of addiction, crime and their all too predictable consequences. Lloyd’s nights are spent with a pair of reprobate mates (Keram Malicki-Sánchez; Punisher: War Zone and Billy Boyd; The Lord of the Rings) on the floors of Edinburgh’s dingiest raves, while in the daylight hours he pushes pills for local gangster Solo (Carlo Rota; TVs 24), a psychopath to whom he is in debt.
Heydon’s desire to recreate the aesthetic of Trainspotting director Danny Boyle is as obvious as it is unsuccessful. All the stolen pieces are there — the narration, timelapses, pop-infused soundtrack — only to be put together without any of the Oscar winner’s enthusiasm or, quite frankly, skill. Even more problematic is that Ecstasy is entirely lacking in wit, emotion and insight; its characters are unlikable, its situations boring and familiar. Eventually, Kristin Kreuk (TV’s Smallville) enters the picture as a straight-laced Canadian expat who inexplicably falls for our good-for-nothing hero. Her vacant, barely there performance reinforces how thankless the role actually is, while the totally unconvincing romance is communicated mostly through montages and wistful gazes into the distance.
Neither the love story nor the gangster story contain even the slightest of stakes, making the ninety-nine minute runtime feel three times longer than it is. Most frustratingly, the film’s redundant moral coda manages to let its vile characters totally off the hook for their debauchery.