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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Legend of Barney Thomson


Starring: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Ashley Jensen and Brian Pettifer
Distributor: Icon Film Distribution
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 16 November 2015

Barney is a hapless barber devoid of charm and 'patter' as his fellow barbering brethren mockingly remind him. Barney's mediocre, mundane life of plotting for a way up is about to be transformed, following a typically incompetent fit of pique, when he inadvertently stumbles into serial murder, and with it headlong into the trail of a grotesque series of killings gripping Glasgow. As he makes ham-fisted attempts to cover his tracks, he finds himself on the run from the bearish Detective Inspector Holdall and a testosterone-driven local Police task force at each other’s throats over the ongoing crimes. With his sanity threatening to unravel, Barney fatefully turns to his domineering, emasculating mother, Cemolina. There's no turning back now and the path that lies ahead for Barney may yet be littered with more murderous consequences than he could have ever anticipated...

The Legend of Barney Thomson is directed by Robert Carlyle, who also stars as Barney. It's a Scottish, dark comedy which sees the local police hot on the heels of a local serial killer. The victims bodies are never recovered, except for one piece of them (which changes from murder to murder) which is mailed to the victim's home address.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Scotland, Barney Thomson is a rather dull, insignificant barber who has worked at the same barbers for years. He doesn't like to talk to the customers; he has only two styles that he cuts; and he's slowly becoming a relic of the past. Today's customers want a little chit-chat and more modern hair cuts. Barney has been getting more and more bitter as time goes on and he's moved from the chair by the window, to a chair in the back of the shop. His constant rants in front of customers finally gets him the sack, but when his boss slips on some spilled water he falls on top of Barney. Barney's scissors accidentally piece his bosses chest, killing him instantly. In a panic he wraps his body in bin bags and puts it in the boot of his car.

The police are finally sent in to investigate a missing person's inquiry and they soon come to suspect that this is another of the serial killer's victims.

While Barney figures out what to do, he continues to visit his mother's and drive her to her weekly bingo nights. But the police are closing in and Barney can think of no easy way out of the mess he's gotten himself into.

Visually Carlyle has gone for a grim, drab colour palette, to reflect the equally grim and drab existence of Barney's life. He's also gone for a timeless quality. There are no mobile phones or computers seen in the film and the cars are all pretty bland looking. It's hard to tell whether the movie is set in the '60s/'70s or yesterday. This is quite a clever direction for Carlyle to have opted for, as it means that the film won't age as quickly as most modern films - even Carlyle's hairstyle is in a time of its own.

While Carlyle's portrayal of Barney is flawless, helping you feel sorry for someone who is so obviously useless and a little pathetic, it's Emma Thompson as his mum that is this film's stand out performance. In fact the first time we see Thompson I didn't recognise her at all.

I'm not sure how I felt about Ray Winstone's portrayal as Holdall. It just came across as a little too comedic, bordering on pantomime.

The film also draws in numerous famous Scottish actors in brief cameos, including Ashley Jensen, Martin Compston, Kevin Guthrie, Stephen McCole and Samuel Robertson.

For extras we get an audio commentary with Carlyle. I don't know why, but I was expecting this to be a rather bland affair, but Carlyle is quite chatty (someone whose onscreen persona is obviously nothing like the surly, stoic types he normal portrays) and has a great deal to say about the filmmaking process. You won't find the audio commentary on the extras page. You'll need to go to the Set-Up menu.

The other extras include Trailer (1 min, 44 sec); Bloopers Reel (1 min, 50 sec); and 5 deleted scenes.

The bloopers contained a scene that looked like a happy accident that may have been reshot for the finished film. When Barney is panicking about his situation, he asks his mum "What do we do now?". Just before he asks the question though, Emma Thompson drops her biscuit in her tea and replies "I'll have to get a spoon to fish it out". They laugh so much that it looks like it was an accident and Emma ad-libbed her line.

It's an interesting movie but probably not one you'll watch more than once.


Darren Rea

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