Picks and Pans Review: Trainspotting

updated 07/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly MacDonald

At the screening for critics that I attended in Manhattan of Trainspotting, a jocular but depressing film about a bunch of Scottish junkies, we were all given paperback copies of the screenplay. Good move. Although Miramax, the American company releasing this British film based on Irvine Welsh's 1993 cult novel, reportedly had the actors redub portions of the dialogue to make it more comprehensible to us Yanks, the accents are still so strong and the slang so colloquial that I found myself at times wishing for subtitles. Sorry to say, but Miramax has no plans to hand out the screenplay when Trainspotting unspools at your local film palace.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Well, actually, Trainspotting confirms that director Danny Boyle, who made a flashy debut here last year with the black comedy Shallow Grave, is a talent to reckon with. His new film is often amusing and always visually nimble (love that syringe's-eye view of heroin being injected). It is, however, a little too exhilarated by its own decadent hipness as it follows a group of heroin addicts spending their days shooting up, stealing, hanging out at the pub and otherwise failing to improve society. The smartest and most self-reflective of this crew (McGregor), the only one with a chance at a successful life if he could just stay off junk, sums up the group's nihilistic philosophy when he says, "Who needs reasons when you've got heroin."

All this doped-up ennui eventually proves wearing. Junkies, given to nodding out and living in squalor, don't make good company for too long. (Note: If you're squeamish, know that there are shots of heroin being mainlined and a used condom being removed, and a lavatory scene that out-grosses Jeff Daniels's tour de toilet in Dumb & Dumber.) (R)

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