Robert Carlyle is probably best known for his portrayals of some of the greatest villains in history. From Leith`s scourge Francis Begbie to Bond villain Renard, Carlyle has even gone as far as to bring Hitler himself to the screen. In his latest film The Legend of Barney Thomson, however, we see a rather different side to Carlyle`s villainous nature, as he brings to life Glasgow`s latest (very much inadvertent) serial killer.
Marking Carlyle`s directorial debut, Barney Thomson is based on Douglas Lyndsay`s successful series of books all based around the barber shop in Glasgow`s borough of Bridgeton.
As a bloodthirsty murderer dismembers his way through the young men of Bridgeton, downtrodden barber Barney Thomson (Carlyle) finds his dreams of becoming a local legend shattered as he is relegated to the back room of the barber shop. After a scuffle with the salon owner ends with Thomson`s boss skewered on a pair of thinning scissors, his life begins to spiral into a frenzy of accidental deaths and mis-pointing of fingers, both severed and otherwise. As the police close in on their investigations into the killings, Barney discovers that murder may be a family business.
Carlyle`s portrayal of the hapless barber is a delightful departure from his usual unhingedness. Barney is an unfortunate anti-villain whose plight is both touching and hilarious. Ray Winston (The Sweeney, Sexy Beast) plays to his strengths as the equally inept and hard-boiled Holdall, a Scotophobic vice detective assigned to the serial killer`s case. Cuttingly humourous in his hatred both for his job and the city in which he has found himself, this is Winston at the top of his comedic game.
The stand-out performance, however, goes to Emma Thompson in what is surely her most transformative role to date. Greatly aged to portray Barney`s henpecking mother, Thompson is an imposing figure harbouring an assortment of dark and disturbing secrets. Owning every scene whilst never overshadowing Carlyle`s own performance, the relationship between the two touchingly displays the unbreakable bond between mother and son and the lengths to which the two will go to protect each other.
With an ensemble cast showing off some of Britain`s very finest, The Legend of Barney Thomson is sharply scripted by the exciting new pairing of Richard Cowan and Colin McLaren, who have managed to produced a dark Scottish witticism worthy of Irvine Welsh. In his directorial debut, Carlyle has proved himself to possess a keen eye for film making producing a macabre delight that the whole family can enjoy.
Deliciously dark, gut-wrenchingly funny and with a heart the size of Ray Winston`s right fist, The Legend of Barney Thomson is set to remain a legendary piece of British cinema for many years to come.
Dir: Robert Carlyle
Scr: Richard Cowan, Colin McLaren
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winston, Tom Courtenay
Prd: Holly Brydson, Brian Coffey, Richard Cowan, Kaleena Kiff, John G. Lenic
DOP: Fabian Wagner
Run time: 96mins
The Legend of Barney Thomson is out on DVD now.