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Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy

2011 | 99 min | R | 1.85:1

Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy


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Movie appeal

Dark humor6%



Theatrical release date

 21 November, 2012
 20 April, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 28, 2012

I’m not exactly sure what prompted interest is adapting “Ecstasy,” Irvine Welsh’s 1996 collection of short stories, but it seems as though the time for material like this to truly take off has passed. A distant cousin to the chemical behemoth known as “Trainspotting,” “Ecstasy” attempts to conjure the same sense of insanity, musical muscle, and impish wit, only to stumble repeatedly as it struggles to put on a dazzling sound and light show. Director Rob Heydon has the unfortunate task of following Danny Boyle when it comes to Welsh’s world of miscreants, and while the movie retains a few gripping dramatic moments, as a whole it fails to catch fire, with a serious been there, done that atmosphere the production can’t escape.

In the heart of Scotland, Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) makes a living as a drug mule, flying to Amsterdam to make his pick-ups, with ecstasy a particular favorite for his employer, brute drug lord Solo (Carlo Rota). Looking to conduct his own business with his pals, addict Woodsy (Billy Boyd) and amateur chemist Ally (Keram Malicki-Sanchez), Lloyd can’t seem to escape his debt to Solo, leaving him with few options, also dealing with his widowed father (Stephen McHattie) and his inability to reclaim a love for life. Causing further complication is Heather (Kristin Kreuk), a Canadian working at an anti-drug commission who senses something sincere about Lloyd that she can’t resist. As the two embark on a relationship that includes pills, nightclubbing, and dishonesty, the aspiring drug dealer is forced to reconsider his life, though time is running out, with Solo turning his violent attention to Heather to encourage a speedy repayment from Lloyd.

While “Ecstasy” isn’t a sequel to “Trainspotting,” it certainly doesn’t seem to mind any comparisons. Once again plunging into the Scotland drug scene, with its endless raves and impenetrable accents, Heydon works to build a throbbing screen energy while sorting through numerous characters who deal in highs and rage. The soundtrack is exemplary, with rapid-fire beats and an electro coating that makes the dance sequences irresistible, creating a lively atmosphere of partying and public escape, crucial to the comprehension of these characters. “Ecstasy” has undeniable energy when it focuses on the power of the titular drug, which inspires thoughts of love and release, while becoming a religion for Woodsy, who’s fried his brain on the stuff. It’s not quite the avalanche of impulses that made up “Trainspotting,” but moments of dance floor euphoria are handled well, creating a convincing argument for the obsessive behavior displayed by the characters.

Where “Trainspotting” was an elaborate show of force, a borderline prank, “Ecstasy” hopes to study its characters, but only a few dramatic passages truly work. Time with Lloyd and his ailing father is compelling and real, perhaps in need of its own movie, and scenes of intimacy between the drug dealer and Heather show some life as the two work out a comfort level in their relationship, providing small moments of confession that register as heartfelt. However, it’s not enough to create a reason to care about the people, and the story falls back on formula too easily, with Solo’s threats and Lloyd’s streetwise panic consuming too much screentime. Predictability is the real threat to “Ecstasy,” with Heydon unwilling to do something fresh with the material, breaking away from comparisons to Boyle’s work. Granted, Welsh has his sweet spot of Scottish troublemaking, but with a film as iconic as “Trainspotting” casting a long shadow, “Ecstasy” needed a specialized vision to break through the repetition.

Violence takes over the final act of “Ecstasy” along with a few leaps in characterization, suggesting a rush to finish the feature without the burden of consistent storytelling. In the end, the movie really just wants to be a love story about life, not a seedy drug picture. Its optimism is endearing, but the film’s execution doesn’t launch the rainbow it seeks to fondle.

Starring: Kristin Kreuk, Billy Boyd, Adam Sinclair (I)
Director: Rob Heydon

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