The Legend of Barney Thomson is the screen adaptation of the book named The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson, by Douglas Linsay. Barney is a barber in the city of Glasgow, but by his own admission is not particularly good at it. As he reaches the wrong side of middle age, Barney's life is a brutal grind of mediocrity. Could life get any worse for him? Well yes when he accidentally kills his boss and finds himself as the prime suspect of a multiple murder case. Barney is clearly not a serial killer, but just who is?
It's fair to say, that The Legend of Barney Thompson is a brutally dark comedy. Laced with multiple memorable comedy moments, it is similar in style to a Coen Brothers movie. For instance, the serial killer in the story likes to post body parts back to the families of the victim. But not just any, body parts, human buttocks and a penis for example.
The Legend of Barney Thomson is the directorial debut of Robert Carlysle and he does an impressive job. There is no doubt that there are some classic scenes. Plus he uses some brilliant locations and many different camera styles to achieve something unique. Carlysle burst onto the scene, playing Francis Begbie in Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. For me, there's certainly a strong influence from that displayed here.
Now, impressively Carlysle plays the lead role too and he does a fantastic job, thoroughly believable and suitably tragic. But, more importantly, he seems to allow his fellow cast members to share equal measures of the screen time. There are some strong performances in a quite surprising cast list. Brian Pettifer is fantastic as Barneys desperately sad friend, who gets free haircuts on his rather strange woolen hairpiece. Ray Winston does a brilliant job playing the detective who has convinced himself that Barney is the serial killer. Tom Courtenay pulls off a truly memorable performance as the Police Chief Inspector.
However, the real standout in The Legend of Barney Thompson comes from the performance of an unrecognisable Emma Thompson. Cast as Barney's mum, Cemolina, she is possibly one of the most unlikable characters that you will find in any movie. She bullies her son endlessly, gambles and swears like a trooper. Totally, not the sort of role that I expected Emma Thompson to be cast in. But, she is amazing, and along with the rest of the cast delivers the comedy with true precision.
The Legend of Barney Thompson, will not be everyone's cup of tea. This is an extremely dark comedy, so if that is to your taste I would strongly recommend it. Personally I thought there were many laugh out loud moments and some excellent dialogue. Top that off with a Tarantino-esque finale and it has all the hallmarks of a good British black comedy.