Review: ‘Barney Thomson’ takes too much off the top of a dark comedy


“Barney Thomson” proves a middling feature-directing debut for Scottish-born actor Robert Carlyle (“The Full Monty”), who never quite musters the requisite laughs, spirit and momentum to sell this quirky, pitch-dark comedy.

Carlyle also stars in the title role as a hapless Glasgow barber who accidentally kills a co-worker (Stephen McCole) at the same time a serial killer is on the loose. The script by Richard Cowan and Colin McLaren, based on the novel by Douglas Lindsay, crisscrosses these story strands in several unexpected ways, tightening the screws on Barney in the process.

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Despite the fertile concept, it’s hard to care about, much less root for, the irritable, charisma-challenged Barney. The character never emerges as an effective hero or antihero, and performer Carlyle does little to mitigate that.

Stealing focus are a dynamite Emma Thompson, superbly transformed to play Barney’s brassy, nasty mum, and Ray Winstone as a stressed police detective with a hyper-competitive co-worker (an over-the-top Ashley Jensen) and caustic boss (Tom Courtenay), who zeros in on Barney.

Glasgow’s dodgy Bridgeton Cross neighborhood makes for a vivid backdrop and some well-chosen pop tunes add ironic fun. But the climactic Mexican standoff is perhaps the biggest of the film’s many stretches.


‘Barney Thomson’

In English with English subtitles because of the heavy Scottish accents.

No rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills. Also on VOD.