Barney Thomson is a film that tries to follow the convention of black comedy. In this case, a barber turns unwitting murderer. Unfortunately, it just isn’t dark or funny enough to keep ones attention.
Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ashley Jensen
Richard Cowan, Douglas Lindsay, Colin McLaren
Robert Carlyle is well known for his role in The Full Monty. That film is funny because it deals in the absurd reality of men stripping due to them all having lost their day jobs. He’s the leader by proxy of the dancing group and you relate with him because he’s broke and he’s found a way. As he makes money as a stripper, the story goes all sorts of directions and it’s a really fun movie all around. This film, Barney Thomson, certainly has the ridiculous factor, a barber turns murderer accidentally and just keeps doing it.
So we have the absurd story but where is the comedy? Is murder less funny than male burlesque? Maybe. I think it can be presented as hilarious. Take the Coen Brothers’ work for example. Fargo is a dark murderous laugh a minute. This film approaches that sort of black comedy convention but never truly arrives there.
Some have noted the strength of Emma Thompson’s performance. Indeed she does bring a credence to the black comedy being portrayed. When she comes on screen, you feel things lift, as if it’s going somewhere you could in theory like. Unfortunately, her role is just not big enough to save this film.
In summary: Barney Thomson is a story of a burned out mediocre barber who loses his job and then accidentally kills his boss. Through many misfortunate events he kills others. He is labeled a serial killer and there is a hunt by the inspector. There are a few side stories going on, some make sense more than others. For example, a female officer (Ashley Jensen) cusses at the actual inspector on the case a lot for no apparent reason. The film has its moments but I feel the error is in the script. None of the powerhouse actors are given much to work with. Finally, Barney himself never really does anything either. A serial killer should be a little frightening or a little relatable, one or the other. I enjoyed parts of the film but I’m afraid the film didn’t evoke the humor and disgust side by side enough to make it a hit I would recommend.