Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy (2011)

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When it comes to movies adapted from books I usually try to keep the two mediums very separate. They are, after all, very different from one another and most of the time the essence of the tale is more important than every single detail. Sadly, Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy loses the essence and so that not only makes it a poor movie but also a very poor adaptation.

To be fair, the book it springs from (called . . . . Ecstasy, funnily enough) actually contained three very, VERY warped tales from the mind of Welsh. Many of the wilder moments just wouldn’t have been filmable but that’s no excuse for what viewers end up with here, a rather dull and thankless affair that only has one major plus point going for it – the excuse to watch numerous scenes filmed in Edinburgh. I’m biased I know but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Anyway, the main story is all about drug loving Lloyd (Adam Sinclair). Lloyd is a positive guy in a very negative situation, up to his neck in debt with gangster Solo (Carlo Rota) and stuck watching his widowed father (Stephen McHattie) drink his life away. When Lloyd meets the beautiful Heather (Kristin Kreuk) he decides that the time is right to maybe fall in love and start doing more with his life. Solo, however, doesn’t want that and the drug use and debt start to cause some real problems.

Director Rob Heydon, who also joined a number of people in adapting the story from book to screen, seems to have very little idea of how to make this material work. It’s as if he watched Human Traffic and Trainspotting and then tried to figure out how he could remake them for a couple of hundred pounds. Everything about this film, apart from some of the acting, feels completely amateur. And the least said about the marketing, that cynically does nothing but try to capitalise on Irvine Welsh’s name and the imagery of Trainspotting, the better. I can accept the former but the latter is just downright sneaky.

Sinclair and Kreuk are good in their roles, and they make for a nice couple you want to see have some good fortune, but Carlo Rota isn’t an actor I’ve ever thought highly of and he lives down to my expectations once again. Stephen McHattie IS an actor I always think highly of but I have no idea what accent he’s attempting here. It MAY be a Scottish accent but there’s definitely some Irish in there, maybe intentional but maybe not. Billy Boyd doesn’t do too badly and benefits from having a fun role and Keram Malicki-Sanchez is also quite good – both play friends of Lloyd and have very different approaches to the drugs that they enjoy.

With so many minor elements left woefully underdeveloped and the main story strands not given the real care that they deserve/need, there’s nothing to recommend this apart from one or two good songs on the soundtrack and some nice shots of the ever-photogenic capital of Scotland. I’d happily watch the leads in another movie but I won’t be re-watching this one.

DIRECTOR: ROB HEYDON
WRITER: ROB HEYDON, BEN TUCKER, MATT MACLENNAN, PAUL MCCAFFERTY, BASED ON THE BOOK “ECSTASY” BY IRVINE WELSH
STARS: ADAM SINCLAIR, KRISTIN KREUK, BILLY BOYD, CARLO ROTA, KERAM MALICKI-SANCHEZ, STEPHEN MCHATTIE
RUNTIME: 99 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: CANADA, UK

Film Rating: ★★☆☆☆

6 Comments
  1. Olly Buxton says

    good review kev – i suspect Welsh is incredibly hard to film and the success of Trainspotting was is attributable to the genius of Danny Boyle. (on ) I’m not persuaded that Welsh is such a great talent – this based on the (admittedly limited) evidence of his book Filth, every fibre of which I absolutely hated.

  2. Kevin Matthews says

    Thanks Olly. Funnily enough, I loved Filth and I also enjoyed Bedroom Secrets Of The Masterchefs (I THINK that was the title) but I actually agree with you about Welsh. He’s had some inspired moments but he also just keeps rehashing the same shocks for easy results and I definitely attribute the success of Trainspotting to Boyle and co. as opposed to it all being down to the, enjoyable but tough-going, source material.

  3. Chris Knipp says

    As I recall I attempted to read Trainspotting but found the language impenetrale, so I couldn’t judge it one way or the other.

  4. Kevin Matthews says

    Oh, our lovely Scottish brogue is indeed hard to understand at times. I know some fellow Scotsmen who have also struggled to make it through the writing of Welsh because of his way of capturing the strong accent in print.

  5. Chris Knipp says

    But it’s not just that is it? It’s also low life druggie urban slang PLUS heavy Scottish brogue, a tough combination.

  6. Kevin Matthews says

    That’s true.

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