Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy

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Scottish author Irvine Welsh mightn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying the man can write. When he’s on he’s capable of dissecting the grimy side streets of Scotland with prose as jagged as a shattered pint.

The problem is he’s not always on.

It isn’t surprising that not all of Welsh’s writing lives up to the high water mark of Trainspotting or Acid House. After all, those books have become generational touchpoints, comedic tragedies that say a great deal about a certain culture at a certain time. That gets pretty hard to live up to.

However, even when Welsh’s stories verge on self-parody his idiosyncratic humour and uncanny knack for characterisation usually keep the boat afloat with pure shallow entertainment.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for director Rob Heydon’s awkwardly titled Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy.

Adam Sinclair stars as Lloyd, a partying Edinburgh bad boy with a heart of tarnished gold in need of redemption. Owing cash to local kingpin Solo (Carlo Rota), Lloyd smuggles drugs from Amsterdam to Edinburgh to pay off his depts.

Meanwhile, to escape slacker ennui, Lloyd and his mates gobble pills with an almost religious devotion, raving their way on a nightly basis towards what they believe is true happiness.

On one of his many nights out, Lloyd meets the beautiful Heather (Kristin Kreuk), a Canadian woman unhappy in her married life and looking for a change. But, when the straight-laced good girl falls for Lloyd’s crooked charm, his troubles and constant drug use threaten not only their deepening relationship, but his very life.

Adapted from the short story The Undefeated (the collection was called Ecstasy), Heydon’s film is predictable and trite. It contains the odd flash of Welsh’s wit (particularly the side-plot of Woodsy, a friend institutionalised for drug-induced psychosis), but the journey from page to screen badly exposes the lazy sentimentalism-masquerading-as-pseudo-existentialism that is the foundation of the film.

Without recourse to the novelty of Welsh’s written style, the film is little more than a sentimental but bland reheating of 90s drug culture/troubled romance clichés.

Danny Boyle’s fine adaptation of Welsh’s Trainspotting was released in 1996, the same year as the collection Ecstasy was published, and spawned a whole sub-genre of imitation in the 15-odd years since.

Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy, sadly, will land squarely in the same forgotten bin as most of them.

Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy opens in selected cinemas on April 25.

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