The Legend of Barney Thomson

Directed by and starring Robert Carlyle ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’ provides this year’s EIFF opening gala presentation and in this context it works. It is a light-hearted stab at dark comedy which although it has its moments- mainly in the form of Emma Thomson as a worthy co-star as the protagonist’s mother- falls somewhat short of its own ambitions as it is neither dark or funny enough to register as a classic of its particular genre.
Barney Thomson(Carlyle) is one of life’s underachievers who having worked for over twenty years in the same establishment a barber finds himself usurped by younger colleagues who have the ability to communicate more fluently with customers and don’t seem to have had the charisma bypass that he has suffered. Frustrated and volatile his situation is only made worse when after being sacked he accidentally kills his boss and finds himself en route to being Glasgow’s answer to Sweeney Todd.
Enlisting the help of his harridan of a mother-brilliantly played in an over the top manner complete with Glaswegian accent and convincing prosthetics by Emma Thomson- he subsequently finds himself in a situation which aside from being a voyage of discovery is also a spiralling descent into evermore implausible and improbable situations.
Parallel to this scenario is a mass murderer on the loose on the Glasgow streets who posts body parts of their quarry to their victims’ families. The police team investigating this spate of killings is led by an over the top Ray Winstone and his trusty but bumbling assistant who is also being thwarted and usurped in his own ambitions by a younger female officer (Ashley Jensen).
Both stories eventually merge and the outcome is nowhere as unexpected as I suspect it would like to think itself as the clues are obvious in the plot from the very outset but this doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable.
‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’ is probably a good choice for an opening film for this year’s festival even if it does stray on the side of safe. Carlyle, Winstone and Jensen are ably supported in their roles by a stellar cast which also includes martin Compston and Samuel Robertson although it is Emma Thomson who steals the show in her over the top but still highly believable guise as a Glasgow harpy. The film is not the most memorable film you are likely to see at this year’s event but that doesn’t mean it is not enjoyable for its duration.

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