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Trainspotting: Begbie

A total psycho, but he's a mate, so what can you do?

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Francis Begbie is an aggressive pit bull terrier, a monstrous, brawling hard man ready to explode at any moment, at anyone, for any reason.

The slight-framed Robert Carlyle seemed an odd choice as this violent sociopath but his mini-psycho, brimming with bravado, makes the character all the more frightening. Begbie isn't afraid to test his fighting prowess against the largest of opponents. "Begbie didn't do drugs, he did people," says Renton.

You have to wonder why Renton and the gang hang around with Begbie. On the face of it, at least to Renton's parents, he appears responsible. He doesn't take drugs ("No way I would poison my body wi' that shite" he says, Scotch and cigarette in hand). And he attempts to keep them on the straight and narrow - note the preaching yet abusive lecture he gives after Renton's near incarceration.

However, despite the other characters' questionable preoccupations, Begbie is the vilest of the bunch. His sole ambition seems to be to jack someone in - the innocent kid on the bar stool when he's losing at pool; the identikit American tourist in the wrong pub during the Edinburgh Festival; Renton when he teases Begbie about his romp with a transvestite; above all the shocking scene in a London pub, when a punter evokes his fury by spilling his pint.

Perhaps the most satisfying element of the film's closing moments is seeing Begbie getting his comeuppance: ripped off by Renton and finally caught by the police for the armed robbery he committed earlier. Carlyle's Pringle-clad urban warrior is one of Trainspotting's most provocative characters, no mean feat in a movie full of heroin addicts.

Paul Clarke

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