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Highs and Lows

A needle, a junkie, a heroin habit -- welcome to Great Britain in the '90s

Trainspotting doesn't avoid the tragic consequences of drug-addled and booze-enhanced behavior. One character contracts AIDS from a needle. Another must endure a brief prison sentence, while a third appears destined for an even longer stint behind bars. Even the joltingly upbeat ending has a touch of foreboding. Next month, or maybe even next week, the same guy who sounds so cocky about his clever machinations may very well be using his ill-gotten gain to support a born-again drug habit.

And yet, even the most harrowing episodes in Trainspotting crackle with a buzz not unlike a junkie's euphoria. The visual quotes are cheeky -- check out the references to Abbey Road and A Clockwork Orange -- and the deadpan gallows humor is bracing. The filmmakers are honest enough to have it both ways. Yes, they seem to be saying, life in a living hell can be enormously exciting, especially with a soundtrack that includes everything from Lou Reed and Iggy Pop to Primal Scream and Elastica. Trouble is, it's still hell. It may be an interesting place to visit. But you wouldn't want to die there.

Trainspotting.
Directed by Danny Boyle. With Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd and Robert Carlyle.

Rated R.
95 minutes.

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