Director: Basel Owies.
Starring. Scott Glenn, Chris Coy, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kristen Hager, Max Arciniega. USA. 1h 35m.
A debut feature from elusive director Basel Owies, is a slow burner that attempts to demonstrate just how you can never judge a book by it’s cover and appearances are everything, so brush up and read on.
Budding cop played by Chris Coy, loses his father to suicide when he couldn’t put a psychopathic criminal behind bars, eventually the suspect is released due to little or no evidence, the ashamed officer commits suicide. 20 years later his son begins to follow the same path, believing he’s located the psycho now living under a new identity, but is Eugene Van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn) the innocent small town barber or is it a criminal mastermind?
“There are a few things that a man needs in life, and a good razor is one of them.”
The Barber isn’t quite Sherlock Holmes vs Moriati but it attempts to be this battle of wits and will, and no matter how beautifully the film is shot with the multiple talents of Allen Liu at the helm, it still manages to come off a little weak overall, especially as it turns it attention to away from the great acting potential in it’s grasps with seasoned actor Scott Glenn and a strong co cast, for a manual on how to pick up female victims.
Basel Owies manages to highlight all those warm features of the small American town, the kind of place that everyone wants to retire to with a temperate autumn pallet everything feels so welcoming. Lurking in this pleasantville is the owner of the local barber shop Eugene Van Wingerdt , who might be harbouring a dark secret. When an unknown man wanders into the town and immediately starts to attack Eugene, with a bullshit story about trying to get some DNA for a paternity test, the cops are on high alert, but slowly the young man works his way into Eugene Van Wingerdt’s life as he’s sure he’s a serial killer who he deeply admires and wishes to be his apprentice, the old barber tells him that he’s crazy but slowly they get tightly wound into each other’s lives.
A man’s appearance is everything.
Scott Glen is the perfect choice as the co-lead in this fetid drama, he’s a convincing scared old man who might harbour a secret or two behind his pristine exterior. His character, Eugene Van Wingerdt seems to have two distinct personalities, one is meak and yet when provoked, he’s very surly and methodical, there are several times when he loses his shit over youngsters swearing there’s a tense scene with his mouthy apprentice who gets put straight with military precision. His new young friend is quite different, energetic and curious. Early on in the movie he tries so hard to impress his serial killer mentor but seducing a young girl and taking her to a motel room to dispatch and calls Eugene to check his homework, the film then takes a sinister turn with deadly consequences. Neither man wants to change his game face, but slowly little snippets of true colours come poking through as they interrogate and read between the lines.
Slowly a plot is muddily revealed, as it swings from “did he” or “didn’t he”, but quite early on, the question is answered so the other to and from doesn’t really shock anymore and it’s more of a matter of who’s playing who and who will win? The twists aren’t as gripping as that Keyser Soze moment and in all honestly it could have and should have been, the suspense just isn’t there, but the movie does pull you in to find out the truth but the murky resolution will be about the only thing keeping some audiences watching, which is a shame as it’s a good effort and hints of genius, but sadly nothing much has come from Owie since. At least he opened my eye to the watch trick, and I’ll never judge anyone by their looks.
R – Sleuth (1972),Magic Valley (2011), The Barber (2002)
L – Serial Killer Flicks, Buried Alive Flick Vol 1
Spotlight – Scott Glenn, Chris Coy