The Legend Of Barney Thomson

 
Director: Robert Carlyle.
Screenplay: Richard Cowan, Colin McLaren.
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Tom Courteney, Martin Compston, James Cosmo, Ashley Jensen, Stephen McCole, Kevin Guthrie, Samuel Robertson, Brian Pettifer.

“You’ve chopped them up. You’ve even labelled them”

Unless your a follower of the TV show Once Upon a Time (which I’m not) then you’ll probably have noticed the absence of actor Robert Carlyle from our film screens. The occasional low-key drama like California Solo in 2012 and Samantha Morton’s hard-hitting The Unloved in 2009 have surfaced here and there but they didn’t receive a wide release at all. In fact, I have yet to even see the former and Carlyle had a very small role in the latter (albeit a powerful one). You’d probably have to go as far back as 2007’s 28 Weeks Later to mention a film that a mainstream audience might be more familiar with. Now, though, he’s back. And back he comes to his hometown of Glasgow to make his directorial debut with a very Scottish-centric black comedy.
Barney Thomson (Carlyle) is a socially awkward barber who fails to strike up any rapport with his customers. As a result, his boss Wullie (Stephen McCole) decides to let him go. Without his job, though, the only thing Barney has got in his life is his domineering mother Cemolina (Emma Thompson). So in a desperate bid to remain in employment, Barney finds himself in a position where bodies are piling up around him and a local detective (Ray Winstone) is breathing down his neck.Anyone who’s followed my blog for a period of time may remember the glowing praise I have regularly afforded to Carlyle. I think he’s a fantastic actor and one of Scotland’s best. It’s been saddening to see so little of him over recent years but a pleasure to see him return with an adaptation of the first book in writer Douglas Lindsay’s Barbershop Seven series – The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson. It’s quintessentially a Scottish story that requires someone with a knowledge of the city (and it’s inhabitants) to adapt it for the screen and, on that note, Carlyle is the perfect man for the job.

His ability to capture the Glasgow idiom is, as expected, on full display here and there are regular moments of hilarity. He also utilises the austere city locations to brilliant effect. The time in which it’s set is not entirely clear (it could be set in the 70’s or 80’s) but Carlyle has a good eye for a bygone era and captures a particular style with crisp and observant detail. He’s also managed to assemble an impressive cast who contribute characters that are as colourful as their language; Emma Thompson is a foul mouthed treat under her cheap leopard print coat, heavy make-up and an even heavier Glaswegian accent. Winstone does his usual cockney fing but it works well for the material and there’s a quality supporting cast of Scottish actors from James Cosmo, Martin Compston, Stephen McCole and Ashley Jensen – who gives Winstone a run for his money in the three-testicle profanity stakes. As the titular character, Carlyle flits between drama and comedy with ease and displays and myriad of emotions along the way: despair, desperation and rage consume his character daily and his nervous disposition and social awkwardness doesn’t help matters.As an actor, Carlyle’s chops have never really been in question but the overhanging question surrounding this film is whether his direction is up to scratch? Well, the answer to that is a simple… yes. Yes it is. Carlyle shows some impressive and inventive directorial flourishes and you can see where directors he has worked with have had an influence on his approach. It’s definitely a talent that I hope he chooses to explore more of – although he has already stated that he’s in no rush to do so.The film is not without problems, though. They don’t rest with the performances or the direction but, predominantly, with the narrative. At times, the pacing feels off and the least said about the final third of the film, the better. Suffice to say that it drastically falls apart with a misplaced, explosive denouement that looks like it’s wandered in from another film. It’s the type of material that the Coen brother’s handle comfortably but in his first directorial outing Carlyle has enough panache and talent to make it work and make it enjoyably macabre and offbeat entertainment.It’s always been apparent that Carlyle has a flair for drama but he proves to have a good eye and ear for comedy too. I wonder how well this would translate to others who are perhaps unfamiliar with Scottish humour but, over time, this has the potential to become quite the little cult movie.Mark Walker

Trivia: Despite playing his mother, Emma Thompson is only 2 years older than Robert Carlyle (Thompson was born in 1959, Carlyle in 1961).

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29 Responses to “The Legend Of Barney Thomson”

  1. Based on the title, the only thing that could make this movie more Scottish was if it had Sean Connery played Groundskeeper Willie wearing a kilt busting out the theme of Braveheart on the bagpipes. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been so excited to see this! I was a fan of “Once” and (re)discovered Carlyle there (as in “hey, I know that guy! Why do I know that guy? Oh that’s the guy from -” type thing). I hadn’t heard much about how this was except from a couple of his castmates, so I’m really glad to hear how well it turned out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Misty! Didn’t you remember Carlyle from Trainspotting or The Full Monty maybe? They’re two of his most well known.

      That aside, this is a decent little black comedy. I had a bit of fun with it.

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  3. Sounds like it’s worth a go, this one. I’ll add it to my list, and I like the idea of Thompson and Jensen turning the air blue, though I’ve got a bit fed up with Winstone’s shtick of late. I take it we are going to see Mr Carlyle in Trainspotting 2!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very much looking forward to seeing Carlyle as Begbie again. It’s his best character and Trainspotting is one of my all time favourite flicks. Naturally, I’m very excited about the sequel. Can’t wait! πŸ™‚

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  4. I haven’t seen this, but wow, what a cast! Since I have a soft spot for actors, story lines, and accents from Scotland, I bet I would enjoy it more than most and forgive the flaws.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah I think on the surface the thing I would most have an issue with is watching Emma Thompson play Carlyle’s mother. A minor nitpick for sure but I just can’t believe that role. Not that I’ve seen (or heard of) this film before. πŸ™‚ Good to read about it though, I’ll keep me eyes peeled

    Liked by 1 person

    • And, holy crap I’m having one of “those moments;” after a quick check on IMDb just to see where I might have seen Carlyle before (that face is just too familiar) — he’s freaking Renard from The World is Not Enough! Not the greatest Bond ever mind you, but Carlyle made that one soo much better. Ha, funny I just now noticed this

      Liked by 1 person

      • He was indeed a Bond Villain. A good one too. Don’t you remember Carlyle from Trainspotting at all? That’s the role that most people remember him by. That said, he’s delivered so many great performances over the years but, unfortunately, most people don’t recognise him the way they should. Of course, by his own admission, he never wanted to be a movie star he only wanted to act and his career choices are a fair reflection of that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m going to own up to this and say I have honestly never seen Trainspotting. I don’t know how or why I have’t but it’s on my ridiculously long to-watch list. Ha!

        Liked by 1 person

      • My good man, that must be remedied forthwith. It’s a fabulous film. It put Ewan McGregor, Danny Boyle and Kelly Macdonald on the map and Robert Carlyle is fucking sublime!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I really suck. Can’t believe I haven’t seen it. How pathetic

        Liked by 1 person

      • There’s still time to redeem yourself, man. In fact, you must! You just MUST! Trainspotting is marvellous.

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    • I actually had no idea beforehand that Carlyle and Thompson were of a similar age. I really enjoyed Thompson in this and I’m not normally a fan of her. She looks like she’s having fun with the role. In fact, if you approach the film in the right mindset and just look for fun then it should provide the goods.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This sounds very quirky.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was loving this movie but I’m gonna say I have to agree with you, it did kinda fall apart didn’t it. Seemed so promising too

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers Jordan. Yeah, it’s a bit of shame that it took that path. It was great until the end. Surely a better unraveling was possible? It undone so much good work.

      Like

  8. I recall this getting quite a nice reception when it was released last year. It’s nice to see Carlyle returning to his roots and as for Emma Thompson!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most of the reviews I’ve read have been less than complimentary, man. There’s been some that have gave it some praise but it’s mostly a shame. It’s a fun flick.

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  9. This one screened at a Canadian film festival and we laughed uproariously – the accent takes a minute to get used to though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear you had some fun with it, Jay. I did too. I just wasn’t keen on the ending. It felt messy at the end for me.
      If you struggled with the accent then you’d struggle to understand me as well. That’s exactly how I speak too. In fact, I’ve actually met Robert Carlyle on a few occasions. Lovely guy!

      Like

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