Sixteen years after “Trainspotting” pushed Scottish author Irvine Welsh, helmer Danny Boyle and star Ewan McGregor into the international spotlight, feature debutant Rob Heydon tries for similar success with “Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy,” an adaptation of Irvine’s 1996 book “Ecstasy: Three Stories of Chemical Romance.” But it’s a case of too little, too late for this undistinguished effort, which chiefly serves up yet another depiction of the rave scene, albeit one that’s vague about exactly when it’s set. Although the pic lands in Blighty cinemas just as Welsh’s “Trainspotting” prequel, “Skagboys,” hits bookstores, reception likely will be less than euphoric.
Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) is an Edinburgh slacker who funds his hedonistic lifestyle by working as a drug mule for local kingpin Solo (Carlo Rota), to whom he is inconveniently indebted. But when the Amsterdam supplier generously tips Lloyd with ecstasy tablets, he and pals Woodsy (“Lord of the Rings” thesp Billy Boyd) and Ally (Keram Malicki-Sanchez) decide to cash in by pushing the product at their own underground nightclub. Events go less than smoothly, leaving Lloyd further in debt to the violent, ruthless and evidently psychotic Solo.
For a while, Heydon and Ben Tucker’s script is content mainly to ape “Trainspotting,” with its voiceover narration and exploration of how chemical stimulants might offer an alternative to the soulless existence of today’s pacified worker-consumers, a choice summed up as one between a dull 9-to-5 life or “serotonin and dopamine until the end of time.” And Lloyd’s drug of choice does indeed seem more appealing than that of his widower father, Jim (Stephen McHattie), who lies on his sofa all day anesthetizing himself with liquor.
After an episodic beginning, a more conventional narrative emerges with the arrival of unhappily married Heather (Canada’s Kristin Kreuk, “Smallville”), who finds a new lease on life when she pops a pill and falls for Lloyd. Is it love, or just chemical euphoria, ponders the pic, adapted from just one portion of Welsh’s original book.
While Paul McGuigan’s 1998 screen adaptation of Welsh’s “The Acid House,” incorporating three of the collection’s stories, suffered the fate of most portmanteau efforts, the more focused “Ecstasy” struggles to convince us that Lloyd and Heather’s unremarkable romance (“You’re an emotional fake,” “I’m real when I’m high”) is worthy of this much attention. A belated stab at adding a spiritual dimension to the tale seems half-hearted.
It doesn’t help that Heydon, whose background is in commercials and musicvideos, took 10 years to get his film made. The setting isn’t explicitly mid-’90s, but the look, tone and content feel rooted in that era, even if soundtrack artists such as Orbital, Bedrock and Paul Oakenfold contribute some of their more recently penned compositions.
The helmer makes the most of exterior shooting in Edinburgh, with its distinctive skyline, although time-lapse photography is used to ever-diminishing effect. Pic’s limited production coin was spent more effectively on making the club scenes look convincing than on dressing the offices of government department Scotland Against Narcotics, where Heather, with clunking irony, earns her daily bread.