The Legend of Barney Thompson (2015)


Director: Robert Carlyle
Writers: Richard Cowan+
Starring: Emma Thompson, Robert Carlyle, James Cosmo, Ray Winstone, UK/Scotland. 1h 36m

I was totally misled by the adverts here, mind you they were far and few between but being a Scottish movie I should have known better than to trust the pleasant view that was presented. How often have the Scots just swung from left field and planted a big fat dirty fist in the face of cinema. Train spotting got us twice, not only being an amazing phonetically Gaelic masterpiece it also blew away cinema and OST records with a unique rawness that has never been challenged on that particular scale and really rocketed the careers of Ewan McGregor and the star of this brave film, Robert Carlyle.

If it wasn’t for the dark nature and the handsome vulgarity it kinda has the atmosphere of Wallace and Gromit flick. There is a bustling little town with a jumble sale of characters and a “terrible” mystery overshadowing them all, that’s being followed up by two determined yet confused police officers; the good cop and fat cop, Ray Winstone who is more than often seen wheezing around the screen on the chase of the sprightly Carlyle as he leads and narrates this bizaro thriller.

Barney Thompson is a jaded barber who is slowly being retired by his employers, after being moved from the front of the shop to the as his personally clashes with everyone who walks through the door his anger increases. During a heated argument the aggrieved and bony Barney ends up killing a member of staff. He managed to wrap the guy up and transports him home, nearly being caught by a boozed up friend but none the less he manages to get the body home, where his mother Cemolina (Emma Thompson) says she will help him look after/dispose of the body. The disappearance brings suspicion to Barney and soon he’s trying to hide a second body. As the body count rises Barneys frantic attempts to clear his name only spur on the chase from officer Holdall, but there is more to his family history than what meets the eye.

“You look like a haunted tree”

With a love affair of rockabilly and the British working class there is a nostalgic goldenness in the dusky hues of this film, highlighting the northern soul of this quiet Scottish town and it’s uncanny characters. Obviously with so much killing, body hacking and dodgy old ladies, the comedy is very dark and almost questionable, but with the varied acting talents of Thompson and Carlyle in particular it’s kept in the fast paced and sharp-witted comedy lane. But it has this rich atmosphere about it also, the wide landscape shots dwarfing the characters against huge imposing buildings is also a testament to the architecture that built the community rather than to its residents that are being slain within it. officer Holdall (Winston) is convinced Barney is the man and a despite higher officials thinking he’s a twat he makes this case his life mission, despite her attempts to both ignore and steal the case from him. It’s quite awkward to see Ray almost reluctant to put any effort into this role but what he does offer is effective.

Brimming with Rab C Nesbitt cringness and the only thing that is missing is a bit of Bottom-esque slapstick. It is besieged with cliché’s but when this starts getting too heavy some ingenious story writing comes into play and we have ourselves a refreshed movie. The broad Scottish accent is perfected by Thompson and her foreign tongue slides right in with the locals including one of my all time favourite and so very underused and underrated actor James Cosmo who turns up as a fellow barber.

Overall there is enough charm to make the film watchable and any sense of “oh no are they really doing THAT story line” is often swept away by something totally surreal and unexpected. Even if it’s not overly smart but it is elegant, well paced and always giving, not bad for the first feature length film from Robert Carlyle… why did he wait so long but a great comedy serial killer film that stands it grounds.




Rating 7/10

RThe Barber (2014)
L – Scottish Films, Serial Killer Films, Barbers, When actors turn into Directors
5s – Ray Winstone, Robert Carlyle, James Cosmo, Emma Thompson
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