“What is the worst film you have ever seen?”
If someone were to ask me for the best film I have ever seen it would take me a long time to find a definitive answer. It could be Talebi’s masterpiece “Willow and Wind” with its high drama wrung from the most mundane of incidents…it could be “The Exorcist” for its shocks and for its almost unrivalled beauty…it could be “Ran” for its theatre, that battle scene and for being the Shakespeare on screen moment.
It could be any of those or any of Hitchcocks films. Yes, any of them.
Or any one of a thousand others.
Yes, a thousand.
But that isn’t the question.
The question is what is the worst film I’ve ever seen.
To that question there is only one answer.
It’s not an answer you are going to like.
“Trainspotting” is that answer.
“Trainspotting” is always the answer to that question.
I don’t need to hear about the lowlights of Danny Dyer’s catalogue of gangster flicks.
I don’t care about “Sex Lives of the Potato Men”.
I don’t want to know about Adam Sandler’s depth plumbing rot.
Those films were always going to be bad and a perverse pleasure can be derived from their awfulness, their vulgarity and their crudity.
“Trainspotting” is a different beast.
Its source material, a novel by Irvine Welsh, was nothing more than poverty porn mixing with actual porn. Crass, vulgar, contemptuous, sneering, callous and ugly it is a book that people think they love because they are either Scottish (like me) and so rush to its defence on that fact alone or because book reviewers who were Oxbridge educated and had never actually encountered the people Welsh wrote about told them it was high art.
It isn’t high art.
It is the secret diary of a basket of deplorables.
The film arrived at the right moment.
“Cool Britannia” had taken hold of the entire world. One had only to slap a Union Jack onto something and it was, immediately, cool.
That cultural dominance allied to the fact that the film was smothered in nasty shocks, violence and came with an achingly cool soundtrack meant it was always going to be a smash hit.
A smash hit it was.
That doesn’t make it good.
The performances from every single person are utterly dreadful. Johnny Lee Millers “Scottish” accent anyone? Robert Carlisle doing a sort of “Carry On Travis Bickle” as “hard man” Begbie. Ewan McGregor still trying to find his feet as a screen actor…a little less terrible than he had been in “Shallow Grave”…but only a little.
Each of the characters are without redeeming qualities. There isn’t a single person on screen that you care about. They are selfish, violent, mean, unpleasant and nasty. I’ll give you an example; Renton and Sick Boy lay in the grass in the park with an air rifle, they engage in some “banter” about James Bond before shooting a dog. This is meant to be hilarious. It’s not. It’s distressing and nobody would want to be friends with anyone capable of such cruelty.
Or what about Renton bedding a school girl? Again it is laughed off but we are talking about a grown man sleeping with a school girl even after he discovers that fact. What a boy eh? Cor! Geezer. Or, he’s a sex offender. Take your pick.
Defenders often point to Spuds job interview and, indeed, to Spud himself as evidence of a light in the near relentless darkness. But that interview scene is ludicrous, unbelievable and proof of only one thing…Spud is doomed, beyond redemption, trapped and a victim. That’s tragic, not comic.
This is a film without any heart and with even less soul.
It is a film that has traded on the right time factor and that soundtrack…release it now and without the zeitgeist capturing tunes? Different story, morning glory.
While you cannot fault the work of Danny Boyle or his team…the film zips along with pace and vim and, occasionally, looks beautiful…it never manages to climb above the awfulness of the characters, the depravity of their lives or the brutality of the world they inhabit.