The Legend of Barney Thomson is that all too common beast – a black comedy short on laughs.
Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle) is not the stuff of legends. He’s a miserable, nervy little Glaswegian barber with greased last-century hair, picked on by his boss and fellow barbers for boring the customers with his tedious small-talk. So, any legendary status must derive from his deeds, rather than his personality.
He makes a promising start when he accidentally kills his boss with a pair of scissors during an altercation, then after a run-in with a work colleague ends up with a second corpse to dispose of. Bad timing as it turns out, for there’s already a serial killer at large in Glasgow and before long he’s got a nasty, apoplectic thug of a Cockney detective (Ray Winstone) eyeing him off as number one suspect.
Frantic, he turns to his monstrous mother (Emma Thomson), an uncaring wrinkled-up old tart in leopard skin prints who is far more interested in her bingo nights and drinking parties with her geriatric girlfriends than her poor sop of a son. It’s little surprise to learn by and by that she has a past – and a present that’s even more bizarre and grotesque than her vulgar appearance and manner.
If there’s any legend in this movie, it’s mama, not Barney. But while there is a horror-fascination quality to Thompson’s performance and the appalling character she plays, she’s too cruel to Barney, too emasculating, to be very funny.
That’s a criticism that extends to the rest of the movie. It’s brutal, violent and macabre, full of foul-mouthed, ill-tempered characters, but delivering only meagre comedic payback for all the unpleasantness. Thankfully, the storyline has enough going for it to stave off boredom, but that’s not much compensation for sitting through another black comedy short on laughs. It’s a difficult dramatic form that so often misses the mark.
Movie website: www.facebook.com/The-Legend-of-Barney-Thomson-678382982230231/
2015-16 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville: 29 Feb-6 March, 8pm
Joondalup Pines: 8-13 March, 8pm
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