A Dark Treat: Our Review of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 04, 2016

It’s nice to know that we can still get surprised once in a while when we head out to the cinema.

The Legend of Barney Thomson is a dark, rye and hilarious affair that evokes memories of Sweeney Todd & Tim Burton as this directorial debut of Robert Carlyle shows a real knack and talent as a storyteller.

Nothing has ever gone quite right for Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle), a socially awkward and occasionally sullen man who has never genuinely lived or done anything crazy his entire life of mediocrity.  However in a twist of fate, that all does a 180 degree turn.  After getting fired from his job as barber (the only thing he’s ever enjoyed), he accidently kills his boss and covers it up with the help of his mother Cemolina (Emma Thompson).  However with the police on his tail, his lies mounting up and the media on the hunt for a serial killer he finds out that he just might have more in common with the mindset of a killer then her first expected.

A gloriously dark affair, The Legend of Barney Thomson is akin to some of the more morbidly funny comedies to ever come out of the isles of the United Kingdom as first time director and star Robert Carlyle shows a deft hand at being a truly effective story teller.


Carving out a unique slice of Glasgow for his very own, Carlyle makes into a world unto itself that reminds us of an infamous line in a movie that Carlyle himself starred in; “It’s shite being Scottish” an in this world, these dead pan macabre styling’s work quite well.  The narrative moves with an easy flow, and it isn’t a gut busting kind of funny, but for those familiar with the styling’s this is pitch perfect dark comedy and Carlyle along with the writing team of Richard Cowan and Colin McLaren execute it all very well.  It never feels like something that would happen in real life and quite frankly it is never supposed to.

Carlyle handles the responsibility of acting and directing quite well as his sad sack barber makes for an excellent protagonist and his awkward bumbling throughout the movie is more than a little entertaining.  The genuine surprise in this one is the stellar Emma Thompson as his foul mouthed hedonistic mother and gets to tear up the scenery at every single turn, it’s the kind of part where you can tell that she is having the time of her life and it comes across making for one hell of a fun ride.  Ray Winstone adds just the right amount of menace to it all as the cop on his trail while the great Tom Courtenay chimes in with a fun little cameo.

Ultimately, it’s not a perfect experience as you have to possess a certain appreciation for these kinds of comedic sensibilities, but The Legend of Barney Thomson is a fun little ride for anyone willing to take it and it makes me look forward to the next time Robert Carlyle sits down in the director’s chair.

  • Release Date: 3/4/2016
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.

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