The Legend of Barney Thompson

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A thing that always sticks in my mind is Barry Norman admonishing Tom Stoppard for putting his name before the title on his (rather marvelous) cinematic directorial debut*. “‘Directed by’ was good enough for John Huston“. I remember even at the time thinking he had a point. It may have been the author, directing his most lauded work, but really? It’s like the wannabe auteur equivalent or shouting “do you know who I am!?!?”

The Legend of Barney Thomson announces itself early as une film de Robert Carlyle. Hmmm.

The film is a black comedy about a Bridgeton barber, who a washed up cop fancies as a serial killer terrifying Scotland. This suspicion mainly is down to his shifty behaviour as he tries to hide the act he’s accidentally murdered his boss.

Carlyle certainly has something. There’s a brilliant visual flair to the film. A broken down glamour that captures the grubby corners of the east-end. Or, at least, what’s left of them.

A pretty promising debut, only let down by the acting, if I’m honest. You’ll hear a lot about Emma Thompson‘s X-rated Nanny McPhee. She’s quite funny, and obviously having fun. Ray Winstone has been given the direction “be Ray Winstone“. And, well, he’s the most Ray Winstone at being Ray Winstone you can get. They’re all great, but no-one’s exactly being stretched. Or breaking new ground.

Then there’s Carlyle himself. Can we all agree that he’s great? Just get that out the way? Here he is asked to play a guy so insipid, people forget he’s in the room. A vacuum of a character. and, he could do this standing on his head. Unfortunately, what he delivers is just too one-dimensional. Which is fine for some scenes, but not the whole thing. The director should’ve picked up on that.

(I feel I should’ve drawn some great conclusion about spending too much time worrying about billing and not the movie. But, that would’ve been trite. And, yes, I couldn’t do it without a serious crowbar.)

*To date, still the only movie he’s directed. 25 years ago, sheesh. He should get the finger out, we all wish Charles Laughton had directed more.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

29 July 2015 at 8:03 am

Posted in Film

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