Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Rob Heydon
Stars: Adam Sinclair, Kristin Kreuk, Billy Boyd, Stephen McHattie, Carlo Rota.
Love and other drugs? A poor man’s Trainspotting?
Based on the novella Three Tales Of Chemical Romance from Irvine Welsh, Ecstasy could be considered a follow up of sorts to the 1996 cult classic Trainspotting as it trawls through a similar underground world of rave parties, drugs and complicated relationships in Edinburgh. And even though the film delivers the moral message that drug use will screw you up, this film is ultimately not in the same league. It’s hard not to compare Ecstasy with Trainspotting, and it ultimately falls short of Danny Boyle’s achievement in bringing Welsh’s drug fuelled prose to the screen.
The central character here is Lloyd Buist (played by Adam Sinclair, from Van Wilder 2: The Rise Of Taj, etc), a dedicated clubber who enjoys the hedonistic lifestyle too much to ever give it up. He also smuggles drugs into the country from Amsterdam for a vicious local crime boss (Carlo Rota). “Smuggling is an art,” he tells us in the voice over passages that take us into Lloyd’s world. But when he meets Heather (Kristin Kreuk, from Smallville, etc) he begins to question his life and values. Ironically Heather works for Scotland Against Narcotics, an anti-drugs organisation. A subplot introduces us to Lloyd’s alcoholic father (Stephen McHattie) who is in the early stages of dementia.
Ecstasy is the first feature film from Canadian director Rob Heydon, who hails from a background in music videos, and the film is directed in a similarly flashy visual style. He brings plenty of energy to the material through the use of hand held cameras, long takes, time-lapse photography, and a pulsating soundtrack featuring Cold Play, Primal Scream, the Mahones, Tiesto, and Orbital. Heydon captures the seedy, amoral subculture of nightclubs, drugs, sex and rave parties quite well, and the film reeks of authenticity. Nonetheless it all becomes quite tedious and monotonous after a while.
The blackly comic film delves into some dark territory along the way, but it is ultimately familiar territory. The script is rather cliched and lacks anything fresh to say. Even though Heydon seems to be deliberately trying to replicate the look and feel of Trainspotting, he has misjudged the tone of Welsh’s prose. Heydon’s direction lacks the insight, energy and irony that Boyle brought to Trainspotting, which has become one of the modern classics of Britsh cinema. And the thick Scottish accents of some of the characters are quite impenetrable at times. However, the Edinburgh locations are attractive, and they have been nicely shot by cinematographer Brad Hruboska.
Kreuk is actually quite good and brings beauty and emotional weight to her performance. Billy Boyd effortlessly steals scenes and provides some comic relief as Woodsy, Lloyd’s addict friend who has a breakdown and meets a tragic end. His character is reminiscent of Spud from Trainspotting. Lloyd is an unsympathetic and one-dimensional character, and Sinclair’s performance is equally one-dimensional.
Ecstasy is something of a disappointment! Both Trainspotting and Human Traffic delved into similar territory and did this sort of thing with much more energy, flair, appealing humour, and characters that the audience came to care about.