out of Five
Running time: 99
Despite a handful of decent moments, Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy is ultimately disappointing, thanks to some dodgy performances, irritating characters and a hackneyed, seen-it-all-before script that has nothing new to say.
What's it all about?
Directed by Rob Heydon, Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy is based on the third novella (The Undefeated) in Welsh's 1996 collection Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance. Set in Edinburgh, the film stars Adam Sinclair as pill-popping drug smuggler Lloyd Buist, who, when he isn't smuggling drugs for thuggish boss Solo (Carlo Rota), is either looking after his alcoholic dad (Stephen McHattie) or getting high on his own supply and raving with best buddies Ally (Keram Malicki-Sánchez) and Woodsy (Billy Boyd).
However, when Lloyd gets some additional product and tries to make some extra money, he winds up getting further into debt with a furious Solo, which puts his friends at risk. Meanwhile, Lloyd falls for unhappy ex-pat Canadian housewife Heather (Smallville's Kristin Kreuk) and the pair begin a tentative romance, though he's understandably reluctant to tell her what he does for a living.
Sinclair has a certain twinkly-eyed charm and there's strong support from the always-excellent McHattie (delivering an entirely sofa-bound performance as Buist Snr), while Kreuk acquits herself surprisingly well as Heather, despite looking somewhat out of place. However, the other performances are either extremely irritating (Boyd's cod-philosophy-spouting Woodsy is the chief offender) or decidedly dodgy – for example, Carlo Rota overdoes it as Solo and should probably have stuck to his own accent, as his supposedly thick Scottish one keeps slipping.
The main problem with Ecstasy is that it feels horribly dated, like the 90s coughed and spat it out into 2012 – it also badly rehashes the kinetic style and distinguishing features of Trainspotting (flashy editing, onscreen captions, central narration, copious drug consumption, etc) but has absolutely nothing new to say in the process. It's also pretty miserable throughout and attempts to have it both ways, celebrating the drug and rave culture at the beginning but becoming preachy and moralistic by the end.
On top of that, the already weak story feels painfully underdeveloped, with the script particularly cruel to newcomer Olivia Andrup – she's set up as Lloyd's initial love interest and there's a lengthy, fairly explicit and entirely gratuitous sex scene ... and then she seemingly has no comment when Lloyd starts seeing Heather.
Poorly directed and badly written, Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy is a disappointing and derivative drama that has nothing new to say. Re-watch Trainspotting or Human Traffic instead.