Tommy’s funeral - ‘Two little boys’ - Skag deal - some lucky punter - bus ride - the deal - pub celebration - Renton escapes with the cash - the next morning - “I’m gonna be just like you”
Renton sits next to Gav at Tommy’s funeral, as Gav explains how Tommy died in a hushed voice. Renton expects Gav to tell him one of the ways in which someone with HIV usually dies. Gav tells Renton that Tommy got toxoplasmosis from his cat, which had been living in the apartment, neglected, urinating and defecating everywhere. Tommy had gotten the cat as a gift for Lizzie, to try to get her to take him back, but she refused it, so Tommy was stuck keeping it at his place. Tommy had a stroke, went to the hospital, and died three weeks after getting back home from the hospital. As Gav tells the story, we are shown brief cuts to a small kitten, wandering around Tommy’s apartment alone. At the end of the story, a shot of the kitten in the apartment pans to show the lower half of Tommy’s body, lying motionless on the floor. In the middle of the story, other shots of the funeral show Sick Boy, Spud, Begbie, Lizzie, and Gail all present, and at one point in the service, Begbie turns around to hush Gav. He ends his story by telling Renton that “the kitten was fine.” In the next shot, Renton, Spud, Gail, Begbie, Sick Boy, Gav, and Lizzie all sit in the same booth in which they celebrated Renton’s acquittal for shoplifting, drinking pints and looking morose. Spud sings “Two Little Boys.”
In the next scene, Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie stand in Swanney’s now-empty flat, drinking beers, still in their funeral attire. Sick Boy tells Renton about a ‘skag deal,’ meaning a heroin deal, that he wants the four of them to do together. Mikey Forrester, one of the dealers from earlier in the film, got drunk and accidentally bought two kilos of heroin from two Russian sailors. Sick Boy tells Renton that he has offered to buy it from Mikey for a low price, because Mikey is nervous and eager to get rid of it, and then sell it at a high mark-up to a big dealer he knows in London. Begbie and Spud already know about the plan, and Renton is annoyed that they are already talking about dealing heroin right after Tommy’s funeral. It turns out that they need to bring Renton in on the deal because they are still 2,000 pounds short the amount they need to buy it from Mikey Forrester. Renton refuses and says he does not have 2,000 pounds, but Begbie saw his bank statement at his apartment in London and knows he has enough. Renton warns that a deal that big could send them all to jail for 10 years.
In the next scene, Renton is preparing a needle with a hit of heroin as Sick Boy, Spud, Begbie, and Mikey Forrester watch. Renton’s voice-over explains that he has agreed to be a part of the deal, but that nobody told him until now that one of them would have to try the heroin to make sure it was good. Begbie does not use heroin and also does not trust Spud, and Sick Boy has become more careful recently, so Renton has to try the heroin. It is his first time using again in a long time, and as he takes the hit, he exclaims that it is “really fucking good.” His narration tells us that he has promised himself one more hit before they get to London, for old times’ sake and to annoy Begbie.
On the bus to London, Begbie sits next to his backpack, which holds the heroin, and looks around nervously. The bus is empty except for the four friends. As Renton explains in voice-over that Begbie is nervous because the deal is dangerous and his friends are all incompetent, we see images of Sick Boy, Spud, and Renton in the bathroom stall, one at a time, preparing themselves during the ride. Sick Boy fixes his hair, looks up his nose, and checks his tongue. Spud tries on a large and ridiculous pair of sunglasses. Renton prepares and injects one final hit of heroin. Begbie is on edge and drinking liquor out of the bottle. He asks Sick Boy if he brought a pack of cards, and gets angry when Sick Boy tells him that he forgot.
The bus arrives in London, and the four friends emerge from an archway to cross a street, each carrying a duffel bag. All wear suits except for Renton. They enter a hotel. The London dealer and a junkie sit in a hotel room. A man who works for the dealer brings them to the room and asks if they have been followed. They enter the hotel room, and Renton’s narration explains that this big-time dealer could immediately tell that they were not serious criminals, but just a few junkies who accidentally came into a big deal. Begbie takes the heroin out of his bag, the dealer weighs the bags, takes one to the junkie, and the two leave the room. The four friends wait in the first room as the junkie tries the heroin, and they fidget nervously. Renton looks out the window and Begbie and Sick Boy light cigarettes. Spud is wearing the comically large sunglasses from the bus and a large collared orange shirt. He fidgets with his sunglasses. The dealer returns to the room and asks how much they want for the heroin. Begbie asks for 20,000 pounds and the dealer chuckles and says it is not worth more than 15,000. Begbie unsuccessfully haggles, and the price ends on 16,000 pounds. The dealer and his acquaintances leave the room, and the four friends start screaming and hugging in celebration. Renton narrates that it felt really great to all be together, celebrating like that, but that a moment like that does not last as long as the money does.
In the next scene, the four of them sit in a pub celebrating. Spud tells them about his plans with his share of the money, which include buying something nice for his mom, buying some good speed, and taking a girl out for a nice night out. Begbie takes out some money to buy another round, and Sick Boy gets up to go to the bathroom. Sick Boy tells them that the money better still be there when he returns, and Renton jokes about running away with it. Begbie stands to buy the drinks and repeats Sick Boy’s warning, Renton jokes again about running away with it, and Begbie tells him that he would kill him if he did. Renton does not doubt it. When it is just Spud and Renton at the table, Renton asks Spud if he is interested in trying to run away with the money together. Spud is in disbelief, and Sick Boy returns before he can give an answer. Sick Boy tells them that he would have run off with the money if he had been in their position.
As Begbie walks back from the bar with the four pints, he bumps into someone and spills some of the beer on himself. Begbie curses at the man, and he says he is sorry. Begbie keeps pressing the problem and Spud calls after him to leave it alone. Begbie calls the man fat, and the man finally curses back at him and turns around. Begbie drops all but one pint on the ground and smashes the last one over the man’s head. He throws him into the bar and onto the ground and kicks him in the face. As Spud tries to stop Begbie, Begbie pulls out his knife and accidentally slashes Spud’s hand. Spud screams and drops to his knees, and Begbie yells at him. Sick Boy also arrives and tries to calm Begbie down. Begbie threatens everyone else in the bar, and orders Renton to bring him a cigarette and the bag of money. Renton brings them both over, lights a cigarette for Begbie, and hands it to him. Begbie blows smoke in his face.
In the next scene, the four friends are asleep in the same hotel room in which they did the deal. Begbie sleeps on the bed, holding on tightly to the bag of money, with Renton awake next to him. Sick Boy and Spud sleep on the floor. "Born Slippy" by Underworld begins playing. Renton gets up, looks around the room, and puts his shoes on. He quietly pours himself a glass of water, drinks it, and walks over to where Begbie is sleeping. He slowly removes the duffel bag full of money from Begbie’s arms. He steps over Sick Boy, and walks to the door to put his coat on. He looks around the room to make sure everyone is still asleep, first looking at Begbie, then Sick Boy, then Spud. When the camera pans to Spud, he is awake, looking at Renton in horror, and crying. Renton looks at him apologetically, and Spud shakes his head. Renton nods goodbye to him, and walks out the door.
As he leaves the hotel and walks through London, Renton’s narration explains the ways that he tried to justify ripping off his friends. He does not care about Begbie and he knows Sick Boy would have done the exact same thing if he had the chance. As he explains that he only feels bad for Spud, the locker containing Renton’s passport opens, Renton removes it, and places in a wad of cash totaling 2,000 pounds. He smiles. Later in the morning, Spud and Sick Boy sit outside of the hotel room along with four other people, as Begbie trashes the room, screaming. Two police officers arrive and begin banging on the door as Spud and Sick Boy run away. As Renton walks across the London bridge, he tell us in voice-over that the only real explanation for why he stole the money is because he is a bad person. He promises to change. The final shot is a close-up of his face as he walks across the bridge, toward the camera. Gradually, a smile spreads across his face, and he eventually walks close enough to the camera that the camera loses focus on him. His narration tells the audience, “I’m going to be just like you,” and ends the movie by listing the same aspects of the ‘perfect life’ that he lists at the beginning of the movie: “The job, the family, the fucking big television, the washing machine… getting by, looking ahead, to the day you die.” After the end-title, a final shot shows Spud opening the lockbox and recovering the 2,000 pounds that Renton has left for him.
At the funeral, Gav’s explanation of how Tommy died again reminds us of Renton’s role in what happened to Tommy. It turns out that Tommy bought a kitten for Lizzie in a desperate attempt to win her back after she broke up with him in part because of the tape that Renton stole. Tommy ended up getting sick from the kitten, because he was unable to clean up after it because he was always on heroin, which was also, in a way, Renton’s fault. The scene is also interesting because, for a brief moment as Renton learns the details from Gav, Gav becomes the narrator and the editing seems to follow along with his narration. This is similar to when Begbie and Tommy tell the pool story, so it can be assumed that the images we see of the kitten in the apartment are occurring in Renton’s imagination.
The scene in Swanney’s abandoned flat after Tommy’s funeral epitomizes the selfishness and lack of empathy of Renton’s friends. Renton, who has matured somewhat from the start of the film and who also likely feels guilty about Tommy’s death, speaks for the audience when he asks, shocked, if they are really already talking about a drug deal so soon after Tommy’s funeral. His friends seem not even to understand why such a question would be asked, underlining their self-absorption. Additionally, the way that they pressure Renton into joining the drug deal despite his objections fits their characterization and provides further evidence that they have been holding Renton back, keeping him tied to illegal activities and drugs. When they make him try the heroin, the audience is given a direct link between their negative influence and Renton’s heroin addiction, in many ways vindicating much of Renton’s behavior close to the end of the film. Renton’s promise to take one more hit, mostly to annoy Begbie, also reminds us of the way that much of Renton’s behavior, and his drug addiction in particular, comes from a desire to rebel against certain people.
The shots of Renton, Spud, and Sick Boy in the bus bathroom confirm Renton’s narrated analysis that they are incredibly incompetent, and stirs up uncertainty in the audience about how the drug deal will go down. Begbie’s agitation and mistreatment of Sick Boy further highlights his negative characteristics, which helps prepare the audience for Renton’s decision to rip him off later. When they arrive in London, the way that the friends cross the street, in a line, resembles the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. This is another one of many pop cultural references that Danny Boyle weaves into the film, mostly in the form of the soundtrack. The fact that each wears a suit except Renton indicates that he is a stand-out or leader of the group. It also foreshadows his decision to split with them later and run off with the money. Additionally, the inversion of the Abbey Road image (they cross the street in the opposite direction) and their carrying of bags full of drugs suggests the way they are at odds with mainstream society and culture. When they get into the hotel, their appearance, especially Spud’s, is contrasted with the drug dealer to further demonstrate their incompetence. When they finally make the deal and the dealer leaves, Renton’s narration indicates, for one brief moment, the positivity that friendship can bring. However, it is interrupted by his acknowledgment that greed will cause a rift in the friendship, which also foreshadows his decision to steal the money.
In the pub, their joking about Renton stealing the money indicates their lack of trust in each other, and foreshadows it actually happening. When Renton asks Spud if he wants to steal the money with him, we are given a hint that Renton does not want to steal from Spud and might include him or leave money for him. Spud’s reluctance and indecisiveness also fit his characterization, showings his passivity and inability to harm his friends in the same way they harm him and each other. Meanwhile, Begbie’s fight at the bar continues a series of actions that show how terrible he and Sick Boy are. Nearly every scene, starting when Begbie arrives in London, contains some wrongdoing by Begbie or Sick Boy, which solidifies the audience’s negative opinions of them, aligning the audience with Renton so we can understand his final decision to steal from them. Additionally, when Spud gets cut by Begbie we are reminded of Spud’s victimization at the hands of his friends, which aligns the audience with Renton's sympathy for him.
The scene in which Renton steals the money and sneaks away while his friends sleep elicits an anxiety in the viewer for his success—after several scenes implicating his friends for his problems, we understand his decision and want him to get away from them and start fresh. However, his justification that Sick Boy would do the same exact thing if he had the chance reminds us that we likely only side with Renton because he controls the narrative. Additionally, when Spud sees him leaving the apartment and says nothing, we are further reminded of the way that Renton also takes advantage of his friends, and is not simply a victim. Still, the audience has developed an understanding of Renton’s choices, if not an approval of each one, which leaves the viewer wanting to believe Renton’s final promise to himself to make a change, start over, and “choose life.” Additionally, his promise to the viewer of “I’m going to be just like you,” gives us a clear (almost abrasive) identification with the viewer, indicating that if we were in his situation, with friends like his, we could have ended up in the same position.
Renton’s removal of his passport from the lockbox implies that he plans to leave the country and start over, which seems to suggest that he is serious about making a change. After promising to “choose life,” he repeats much of the list from that opening monologue, indicating that he has changed his outlook on society. He drops the most overtly negative parts of that opening speech, such as the existential crisis and becoming a burden to your children, and only leaves in the parts about relationships, health, and materialism, indicating a more positive opinion of a mainstream “normal” life. We have, however, seen Renton decide to quit heroin and leave his friends behind at several other points in the film, and he still relapsed after each one. Though sometimes this has been the fault of his friends, like when they make him try the heroin for the drug deal, it is often also his own decision. Additionally, even when he is pressured by his friends, that does not entirely excuse him—he is not without agency. Considering this, it might be that this final promise to start fresh and live a normal life is just another in a series of promises that Renton makes to himself and then breaks.
Though it is not guaranteed, our understanding of Renton’s evolution over the course of the film indicates that he may really have changed, and will follow through with this promise. We have seen him gradually begin to own his actions and take responsibility for his mistakes, at least internally, if not to others. We see the way his guilt has started to eat away at him in the nightmare sequence, and catch glimpses of a deeper self-awareness when he refers to his depression after quitting heroin, pauses and looks apologetic while giving Tommy money, and scolds his friends for talking about drugs after Tommy’s funeral. His final acknowledgment that he is a “bad person” is a culmination of this growing self-awareness; though it may not be the most mature and nuanced take, it indicates some personal growth. Additionally, the imagery and tone of this final scene suggests that Renton is really going to make a change in his life. Renton’s crossing of a bridge as he promises to start over provides us with a relatively overt metaphor: he is “crossing to the other side.” We also see him walking in a straight line and looking straight ahead—this physicality implies that he is going “straight” (a reference to sobriety) and looking to his future. Additionally, the frenzy of the film has died down, and we are delivered a calm, long, stationary shot of Renton, reflecting the newfound clear-headedness of our narrator. Finally, his decision to leave money for Spud is a final act that endears the audience to Renton, and provides an example of an end to his selfishness for the sake of a friend who never wronged him.