The Legend of Barney Thomson

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Barney Thomson, awkward, diffident, Glasgow barber, lives a life of desperate mediocrity and his uninteresting life is about to go from 0 to 60 in five seconds, as he enters the grotesque and comically absurd world of the serial killer.

The first film behind the camera from actor Robert Carlyle is a Scottish black comedy about an ‘everyman’ barber called Barney Thomson, who becomes embroiled in a serial killer case unwittingly. We’re introduced to Thomson through Carlyle’s (who also plays him) voiceover, where he explains his lonely existence through his job, his life and his relationship with his overbearing mother. After another outburst at the barber shop where he works, events spiral out of control, leading to Scotland Yard sending a detective up to Glasgow to investigate, tangling Thomson up in the case of a serial killer who has a penchant for posting body parts to their victim’s families.

The film is funny and it makes good use of its various Glasgow locations, but it doesn’t half lay it on thick at times. Beyond Thomson himself, most of the characters come off as caricatures, working extremely well in some instances (Emma Thompson), and dreadfully in others (Ashley Jensen). Effectively telling the story in two strands, the time spent focusing on Barney yields the strongest results. Carlyle plays the everyman well, but the scene stealer is Emma Thompson’s hilarious turn as his horrific mother. Thompson gets the Scottish accent and mannerisms down to a tee, and most of the film’s funniest moments derive from scenes involving her. The other strand focuses on the police investigation, and despite a committed turn from Ray Winstone, this feels a little flat with the comedy overly broad and lacking the bite of the central storyline. This is epitomised by Ashley Jensen’s irritating character, where swearing is used as a substitute for actual humour, and her arguments/interaction with Winstone come off as forced.

The film concludes in ludicrous fashion (even for a comedy), but overall the film does have a certain charm and it’s worth checking out for Emma Thompson alone. With that being said, it’ll be nice to see a Scottish film at some point that doesn’t make us all out to be degenerates!

Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Robert Carlyle

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Martin Compston, Brian Pettifer, Stephen McCole, Ashley Jensen, Sam Robertson, Kevin Guthrie, James Cosmo and Tom Courtenay

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