The Legend of Barney Thomson (2015), a Review

The Legend of Barney Thomson

Director – Robert Carlyle.

Writer – Colin McLaren, Richard Cowan

Starring – Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winston

Once every now and then you come across a film you had never heard anything about, that somehow slipped through the cracks and was given little recognition or praise, but turns out to be a delight. Robery Carlyle’s The Legend of Barney Thomson is one of those films; a truly magical, if macabre, little British dark-comedy.

Set in Glasgow, the film centers around 50-year-old Barney Thomson (Carlyle), who works at Henderson’s Barbers in Bridgeton and lives a life of desperate mediocrity. Barney’s uninteresting life gets turned upside down when he enters the grotesque and comically absurd world of a serial killer after accidentally killing his boss Wullie. He then brings his mother into things (Thompson) before finding himself pursued by two rival detectives, Hold-All (Winston) and June (Ashley Jensen.)

The plot is as delightful in action as it sounds on paper, and the idea of the accidental killer is a fantastic one that doesn’t tend to be harvested, as the comedic goldmine it, is often enough. McLaren and Cowan manage this via one unbelievably well-written script, absolutely dripping in rich Scottish cynicism. Not only is the dialogue hilarious standing alone, but when coupled with the thick Glaswegian accent and colloquialisms, it becomes truly a delight to revel in.

The one-liners are never ending, and keep up a level of consistency that is extremely impressive; this is one of those rare films that is endless quotable, and you’ll find yourself dropping the various insults into your daily conversation. Either that, or you’re not as weird as me and don’t talk primarily in film quotes. Either way, here are a few of my favourites;

  • ‘’You hang over the customers like a shitty cloud, scaring them away standing there like a big streak of piss. It’s like you’ve had a charisma bypass. You look like a haunted tree, that’s all I’m saying.’
  • ‘The freezer’s too wee.’ ‘What?’ ‘Its too wee!’
  • ‘I’ve killed Wullie!’ ‘I saw that.’

As you can see, most of the humour is derived by the wonderful juxtaposition between Barney’s anxiety-riddled mess and the other character’s deadpan responses. It’s magical, and a lot of it rides on the chemistry and performance of the cast.

Carlyle pulls double-duty with ease, both leading and directing. Whilst I’ll get to his performance behind the camera shortly, his performance before it is equally as good. He wears his character like a fine glove, endlessly convincing and entertaining in equal abundance. He’s electric, in a deliberately non-electric manner. He is the perfect storm of nerves and wit, and comes out looking incredible. He’s been a long-standing highlight of the British acting scene, an unsung hero if you will. Whilst it may be too late to cement himself in the hearts of the mainstream, he’ll always have a lot of respect from cinephiles, particularly those with an eye on the British scene.

The rest of the cast is equally brilliant, giving bizarre and beautiful performances to match the almost surreal scenario. Winston is his usual gruff self, and if you’ve seen one of his performances, you’ve honestly seen most of them. Still, he turns up, performs his role well and deserves plaudits.

Thompson, arguably the most celebrated member of the cast, and the center of most marketing, gives an incredibly deadpan performance bordering on disinterest. Her non-chalant manner leads to some side-splitting moments, and she’s so clearly not into this whole scenario. Still, that was what was asked of Thompson, and boy did she deliver with spades. Ashley Jensen also makes a welcome appearance. After her role in Extras which made her a temporary household name in Britain, she seemed to not quite manage the transition toward superstardom in the same way her co-star Ricky Gervais did. That being said, it’s always a delight to see her turn up in anything, and she always brings a girlish charm that makes her endlessly likable.

For a first-time directorial talent, Carlyle also does an incredibly mature job. The cinematography is beautiful, and it’s clear he’s drawn on some of the greats for inspiration. The pacing is perfect, the editing tidy, and everything is magnificently captured. Carlyle’s talents seem to be endless, and perhaps he can achieve the recognition as a director he never quite received as a thespian.

The Legend of Barney Thomson is one of those very few films I’d recommend to anybody who happens to be British, and tentatively suggest to those overseas. Whilst a lot of the comedy will likely to be lost in translation, as the film is quintessentially British as they possibly come, the narrative and themes would suffer no such issue. A sparkling screenplay, beautifully shot and fantastically acted; this is a real bloody triumph.

 

Final Rating – 4.5

 

Joshua Moulinie

Goodbye, With Regards

Life is a circle,
And when we met,
I believed that cycle, to be in motion,
An endless ocean,
Of mistakes and regret.

We danced the bedtime waltz,
But then our guards did fall,
And like a shadow,
You crept inside my hallowed,
halls.

I found myself,
Locked, in a binding vice,
Drawn to you, Your essence,
I meant you no malevolence,
She with the eyes of ice.

Yet these deep feelings,
Caused confusion within,
He who could not settle,
He who lacked the mettle,
Didn’t understand a thing.

Out of fear, I wandered astray,
Fueled by my panic, distortion,
I acted; erecting a barrier,
Like a hateful harrier,
Administering the most brutal of abortions.

How could you want to stay,
Which a wretched creature such as I?
I believed you couldn’t,
Convinced I that you wouldn’t,
I did all I could, to make you fly.

And fly you did, you soared,
So far away, lost to the wind.
I cried out, in pain,
Frustrated, living with my disdain,
For the things to us, that I did.

How I should have told you,
That I never felt more alive,
More at peace with life,
More convinced I’d found a wife,
Than I did, when I looked in those cold eyes.

Now I see the truth,
Sadly, the veil has lifted;
You never cared, not as deep as I,
To you, life is an elaborate lie,
A fabrication, to yourself you’ve gifted.

As predictable as the word,
That flies home for Winter,
You did as I presumed,
Shared your bed, shared with whom,
He, that previous mister.

But I sit here, sad no more,
For truth though hard to swallow,
Tastes better than any lie,
You were always going to fly,
And I was always going to wallow.

For you see friends, life is a circle,
We go in one direction,
Always reaching where we began,
As we know no better,
Than the delusions we create.


Joshua Moulinie

The Ridiculous Six (2015), a Review.

The_Ridiculous_6_poster

Director – Frank Coraci

Writers – Tim Herilhy, Adam Sandler

Starring – Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson

Adam Sandler has been, for some time, little more than a poo stain on the otherwise sparkly panties of Hollywood. He casts a sad sight, to be honest; the once promising comedian whose ear for a script got considerably worse as the years went on, and whose writing ability is roughly equal to a sparrow headbutting a dart board full of the worst types of comedy tropes.

A donkey with diarrhoea? Tick. Native Americans with inappropriate names? Hilarious. He seems stuck in a time loop, unable to escape the early nineties, doomed to forever beat the same tired horse; first to death, then back to life, then once more into the brink, my friend, once more… Truth be told, you the audience are responsible for this. As bad as his films became, you kept turning up. Jack and Jill was a trainwreck that nobody I have personally met has ever claimed to like, yet, despite this noticeable handicap, it made just North of $140 mil worldwide. So, here we are. Sandler has a lucrative deal with Netflix, critics and box office no longer matter, and things only seem to be getting worse.

The film stars, in the loosest sense of the word, Sandler, as ‘White Knife’. Half Caucasian, Half Native-American, all offensive; he is due to marry Smoking Fox (Julia Jones) a Native-American woman. Yes, you read that name right. It’s just as painfully unfunny in the movie as it is in this review.

Anyway, Sandler has a run-in with a band of bandits wearing eye-patches. Then, his father, Frank Stockburn (Nick Nolte) finds him, and announces he’s a bank-robber who’s buried some loot but cannot remember where. Then, out of nowhere, like a Randy Orton RKO, comes Danny Trejo, leader of the bandits, saying he wants the loot. If he doesn’t get it, he’ll kill all the Natives. Along the way, Sadler finds he has five brothers; Mexican Rob Schneider, Ugly Stupid Lautner, Generic Drunk Luke Wilson, Black Guy Crews and Wild Guy Garcia. These obviously aren’t the character names, but honestly, I don’t really care. Also, you can probably figure out where the rest of the narrative is going.

I’m going to spare you the pain of a long, drawn out review, because this film simply doesn’t deserve deep analysis. Any self-respecting critic wasting their precious finger muscles on this nonsense needs to evaluate their priorities. This is bottom-barrel toilet cinema, full of fart jokes, poop jokes, casual racism and excessive white guilt that totally overdoes it and ends up being ridiculously offensive on the one occasion they are trying not to be.

The desperate need to portray all Natives as holier-than-thou righteous figures, which in itself isn’t so bad, neglects that people are people, and even some of these predominantly peaceful indigenous can be flawed. Instead they’re not only omniscient, but they also have seemingly supernatural powers. Unfortunately, Sandler seems oblivious to the fact that casting indigenous peoples as mages and wizards is in itself extremely offensive. What he couldn’t have been oblivious too is the idea that painting white actors in what I presume would be called ‘Native-face’, and then giving them stupid names like ‘Smokin Fox’, is going to lead to negative publicity. I’m no fully fledged member of the P.C crowd, and I can take offensive jokes if they’re smart or serve a purpose, but this is just offensive with no redeeming qualities.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Schneider Mex-Faces up, again I’m presuming that’s what you’d call it, and portrays a Mexican with all the subtlety of Jimmy Saville’s haircut. If you’ve seen Schneider before, you know what to expect. So, all I’ll say, is fuck Rob Schneider. I’ll spare the rest of the cast, but what I will say is nobody comes out of this looking any good. It’s downright tragic to see names such as Trejo, Nolte and Crews used in this manner, but that’s what you get when you ride the Sandler express.

One particular annoyance with Sandler’s god awful screenplay is his obsession with contemporary terminology. Surely the first thing any half-decent writer of comedy considers when writing a period piece, is to use that to their advantage. Use the language of the time, use that as the central joke. Nope, not Sandler, to Sandler, every period sounded like the nineties. It’s flat-out woeful.

Ridiculous Six is, simply put, ridiculously shit. It has no merit, no intelligence and no redeemable qualities. It’s effectively the Katie Hopkins of cinema. Sandler continues to remain stuck in a time vortex, continuously churning out the same tired shtick from the nineties, as though one day comedy may come full circle, and he may be considered funny or interesting again. This is pure cinematic tripe, and I recommend you simply watch Blazing Saddles instead.

Final Rating – 2.5

 

Joshua Moulinie