Review: The Legend of Barney Thomson


DIR: Robert Carlyle • WRI: Richard Cowan, Colin McLaren • PRO: Holly Brydson, Brian Coffey, Richard Cowan, Kirk D’Amico, Kaleena Kiff, John G. Lenic • DOP: Fabian Wagner • ED: Mike Banas • MUS: James Horner • DES: Ross Dempster • CAST: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone


The Legend of Barney Thomson marks the directorial debut of legendary actor Robert Carlyle. The film is an adaptation of a book by Douglas Lindsay. It sets out as a barbarous black comedy which details the transition of Barney Thomson’s life as a small-time Glaswegian barber to that of a makeshift serial killer.  Barney (Robert Carlyle) is a barber. He’s a socially inept creature of habit, with his chiseled jaw, greasy slicked-back mane and polished shoes. He’s certainly fort- something; and he’s built a life of undeniable banality. Day in, day out his deft finger work tends the follicles of every last lager sippin’ stool pigeon and wrinkly old Neanderthal in the area who’s in need of a short back and sides. And this banal existence, for better or for worse, is in essence, Barney’s life.

That is, of course, until it all goes belly-up when an altercation in the shop gets out of hand and results in Barney accidentally murdering someone. With both the linoleum floor and his hands stained in blood, Barney sets out on a mission to preserve the life he’s created and decides to conceal the body.  Since cutting is his trade, it’s no surprise that he decides to cut the body up. Of course’ this doesn’t go quite as planned and when body parts start turning up, Barney struggles to evade the crafty detective Holdall, played by Ray Winstone. It’s at about this juncture that the narrative begins to descend into outlandishness, and emotional plausibility seems to totally go out the window. While the film sets out with ambitions as a somewhat cynical British black comedy it just never quite gels together. The comedy is sporadic at best, a tangle of gags, some of which work and some which don’t, and which are knotted together so tightly it’s impossible to tell which is which. If Carry On ever decided to remake the Pink Panther series as a social-realist drama this well could be the end product, a warped farce of a farce that doesn’t quite know what it is.

Carlyle clearly struggled to switch hats between his directing hat and his acting hat. His performance wanes after a while and his comedic efforts begin to feel somewhat forced. Carlyle is a proven contender in the comedy ring, but he doesn’t quite seem to cut it on this occasion, I can only put this down to him juggling duties. The film offers a fantastic supporting cast in Emma Thompson and Ray Winston. Emma Thompson is the most consistently hilarious in the entire equation as Barney’s ex-prostitute mother Cemilina, who’s glazed in more wrinkles and make-up than Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s corpse. But on the whole, Barney Thomson is a far cry from the same blackly comic halls of British cinema as Trainspotting, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Sexy Beast, where this movie so clearly desires to be. It’s the botched haircut you’re just not sure what to with.

Michael Lee

15A (See IFCO for details)
123 minutes

The Legend of Barney Thomson is released 24th July 2015



Cinema Review: The Sweeney

DIR: Nick Love • WRI: John Hodge, Nick Love • PRO: Allan Niblo, Rupert Preston, James Richardson, Christopher Simon, Felix Vossen • DOP: Simon Dennis • ED: James Herbert • DES: Morgan Kennedy • CAST: Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell, Ray Winstone, Allen Leech

Writer/director Nick Love (The Business, The Football Factory, Outlaw) has made his living from showing the criminal’s side of things, so much so that even on The Sweeney, his first movie told from the vantage point of the law, the good guys still act like the bad guys. Based on the ’70s British TV show, this is story of Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), George Carter (Ben Drew, aka rapper Plan B) and the rest of the Flying Squad of London’s Metropolitan police, as they use any means necessary to get the job done. And that includes, in the first five minutes alone, bribing snitches with stolen gold, beating up crooks with baseball bats, and having affairs with married women.

Love does a good job of picking influences for his movie, knicking bits and bobs from Christopher Nolan (the Inception-esque score, as well as a plot section lifted straight out of The Dark Knight Rises) and Michael Mann (London is seen here as a beautiful city of endless skyscrapers of glass and metal, as well as a massive post-bank robbery shoot-out lifted straight out of Heat), and between the cinematography, editing and some well-paced action scenes, he’s made leaps and bounds in terms of filmmaking.

But when it comes to story-telling, he’s still got a lot of work to do. The very messy plot – a seemingly pointless murder at a robbery that may or may not involve a world class thief – never gets too involving, and the other story elements – Regan’s affair, his partnership with Carter, his bosses (including a wasted Damian Lewis) trying to shut down his department – are too by-the-numbers to be entertaining. Add into that some truly awful dialogue, as well as a staggeringly dead-eyed performance from Ben Drew, and what you end up with is 112 minutes that feels twice that long. Next time, stick to the directing end of things, Love. Leave the story writing to someone else.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
112 mins

The Sweeney is released on 12th September 2012



Cinema Review: Elfie Hopkins

Ray makes dinner

DIR: Ryan Andrews  WRI: Ryan Andrews, Riyad Barmania  PRO: Jonathan Sothcott, Michael Wiggs  DOP: Tobia Sempi  ED: Peter Hollywood  DES: Tim Dickel  Cast: Jaime Winstone, Rupert Evans, Steven Mackintosh, Aneurin Barnard, Ray Winstone

From 1979’s Scum to 2011’s Hugo, via gems like Sexy Beast, Nil By
Mouth and The Proposition, British actor Ray Winstone has had a most
extraordinary career. During his 30+ years in the business, he has
worked with directors as diverse as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg,
Robert Zemeckis, John Hillcoat and Jonathan Glazer.

He one of the most reliable performers currently working in British
cinema, and it seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as his
daughter Jaime is (along with the likes of Juno Temple and Imogen
Poots) one of the brightest young actresses to emerge in recent years
across the water.

Having made her debut in Saul Dibb’s Bullet Boy back in 2004, she has
gone on to receive acclaim for her roles in Kidulthood, Donkey Punch
and, more recently, Made In Dagenham. She was also seen earlier on
this year in Dexter Fletcher’s directorial debut, Wild Bill, which
proved to be another fine showcase for her obvious talent.

Less successful in that regard, however, is Elfie Hopkins, the feature
film debut of Ryan Andrews. The younger Winstone stars as the titular
Elfie, a 22-year-old slacker living in a sleepy village, who has
aspirations of becoming a private detective.

Along with her lovelorn best friend, Dylan (Aneurin Barnard, a dead
ringer for Aaron Johnson in Kick Ass), she likes to investigate the
people of the village for her own amusement and self-fulfillment, much
to annoyance of the villagers, as well as her father and step-mother.

However, when a seemingly perfect family, The Gammons, come to live in
the area, their interest is instantly magnified. As the film
progresses, it becomes apparent that there is more to The Gammons
(especially Rupert Evans’ father and Gwyneth Keyworth’s daughter) than
meets the eye.

The final act reveal of what makes The Gammons so suspicious will not
be unveiled here, though it is a very interesting plot development as
it happens. Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems with the
film that make it less effective than it should be.

First of all, there is a moment in the opening half of the film that
seems to give the game away too easily, and is something that
observant viewers will be able to spot without too much effort.
Secondly, the opening 40 minutes of the film comes off as overly
quirky, and suggests a completely different scenario to the one that
transpires after the mid-way point.

It is not uncommon for films to change tact drastically once they
reach a certain stage in their development (Full Metal Jacket and From
Dusk Till Dawn are two obvious examples), but in order for it to work
in this way, you have to invest a certain amount of interest from the
outset, which something that Elfie Hopkins doesn’t manage, despite the
obvious intentions of everyone involved.

There are times when the quirks and foibles of the lead character can
be quite irritating (which is not the fault of Winstone, who does her
very best with the material she is given), and the plot meanders far
too much, instead of focusing on the task at hand.

Which is a real shame, as Andrews has assembled a decent cast, with
Evans and Keyworth, in particular, offering good support. There is
also a cameo from the elder Winstone as the local butcher, though his
peculiar accent and head gear does prove rather distracting.

In the end, it is by no means a truly awful piece of work, but the big
problem is that it was originally conceived as a short film, and has
clearly suffered from the expansion of the narrative that has led to
it cropping up on the big screen.

The one interesting side note to the film, however, is the fact that
Jaime Winstone has taken on a role that is a departure from her usual
bad girl characters, which is something that may well serve her well
in the future, even if her first step into new territory is something
of a misfire.

Daire Walsh

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Elfie Hopkins is released on 20th April 2012

Elfie Hopkins – Official Website


Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness

DIR: Martin Campbell • WRI: William Monahan, Andrew Bovell • PRO: Tim Headington, Graham King, Michael Wearing • DOP: Phil Meheux • ED: Stuart Baird • DES: Thomas E. Sanders • CAST: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston

It’s interesting how a few short, simple scenes can become the legitimate driving force behind a taught, two-hour thriller, wrought with conspiracy, violence and intensity. And yet this is exactly the case in Edge of Darkness. This emotive, involving film, for all its intrigue and mystery, hinges upon a single, fundamental issue: Parenthood.

From the outset, Detective Tom Kraven (Mel Gibson) is characterised via his love for his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic). A handful of brief scenes establish an instant connection with any viewer to ever have been, or have had, a parent. The vast majority, presumably.

The narrative and its pacing are a good fit. Plot-points, like buses, arrive suddenly after a long, tense wait. This is to the film’s benefit however, as in the interim, your investment in the case will hold your attention. The plot thickens in an organic manner, littered with graphic violence that contrasts nicely with the otherwise silent, brooding feature,

As a result, once the story really begins, the emotional upheaval strikes like a wrench to the face. The distinction between justice and vengeance should be as blurred for the audience as it becomes for Kraven. Therefore, the final act may split viewers down the middle. Yet, undeniably, they will be invested. Even disagreement is an involved response: Right?

Ultimately, Martin Campbell’s latest exploit comes down to how convincingly Gibson portrays the hollow, devastated father. Expectedly, this will prompt concerns that Edge of Darkness is little more than Payback 2 or Lethal Weapon 27. Audiences may even be tempted to accuse Gibson of being ‘too old for this shit.’

Mercifully this is not the case as Gibson gives a stirring performance that should have cynics smiling in two minutes and weeping inside of ten.

Edge of Darkness recruits a solid support cast, particularly via the philosophically foul-mouthed Jedburgh (Ray Winston) and refreshingly well realised villain Bennett (Danny Huston). Despite its convoluted political scheme, and its kinetically visceral action, Edge of Darkness feels very much like a real story with genuine characters.

Frequently dynamic camerawork helps to elevate this feature above its contemporaries in the genre. Some deft touches of visual flair are not lost on an audience watching this bleak tale. In fact, they brighten the place up. If just cosmetically.

The film tells the story of Tom Kraven and his descent from straight-laced cop, who wouldn’t punch a man wearing glasses, to vengeful parent who is forced to take the law into his own hands, along with his sidearm. The story is harsh, but universally accessible. The shots are gritty, but flood the senses. The story is over-familiar, but it arrests your attention.

Edge of Darkness could easily commander two hours of your life, assuming you have anything even remotely resembling a heart. The chances of which are relatively good.

Jack McGlynn

(See biog here)

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Edge of Darkness is released on 29 Jan 2010

Edge of Darkness – Official Website