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The Legend of Barney Thomson

This Scottish dark comedy is a shaggy-dog tale about a barber caught up in killings

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The titular Barney (Robert Carlyle) is a hapless, friendless barber working in a shop in Glasgow, Scotland. He has no patter for the customers and his co-workers say he “looks like a haunted tree.” But on the brink of being fired, Thomson accidentally kills a man, and in the way of darkly comic shaggy-dog tales, he’s soon mixed up with an active serial killer. (This killer mails victims’ body parts, including what may be a cinema first — a severed ass.)

The film is Carlyle’s directorial debut, and it’s a good bet for fans of black comedies, especially those that emphasize funny dialogue over realistic plotting. The film was shot on location in Carlyle’s native Glasgow, with an eye toward that city’s quirky, hard-edged characters and their deliriously profane tongues. Carlyle has rounded up a top-notch cast, including: Ray Winstone, as the blustering Cockney copper still angry about having been trapped up north two decades earlier; Tom Courtenay, as the prissy top cop; and Emma Thompson (hilariously buried under bad makeup), as Thomson’s boozy, blowsy, bingo-mad mum.


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