Thursday, 18 June 2015

EIFF 2015 - Opening Night Gala - The Legend Of Barney Thomson

Last night saw the 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival kick off festivities with its opening night gala premiere of The Legend Of Barney Thomson, directed by and starring festival patron Robert Carlyle.
Having missed last year's opening gala without an unfortunately timed and incredibly painful case of kidney stones, it was exciting and reassuring to be able to walk the red carpet in my tuxedo (which up until an hour before still had the tags on from its purchase last year!).
The film tells the story of Barney Thomson, a Glaswegian barber who is down on his luck and accidentally kills a co-worker who fires him from his job.
With a serial killer stalking the streets of Glasgow and mailing body parts of their victims to relatives, Barney's mum (a hilarious Emma Thompson) convinces him to ride on the coattails of the killer to get the police (including a dogged Cockney copper played by Ray Winstone) off his scent.
There are parallels to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (particularly with Ray Winstone in the film as he played the barber on BBC) but Barney is a much more sympathetic character, with the emphasis on the pathetic.
The psycho Begbie is nowhere to be seen here as when we meet Barney he is sad, alone and about to be fired from his job. Even then he can't seem to muster the energy or passion to fight back, only killing his co-worker by accident. Then his attempts to dispose of the body set off a hilariously awful chain of events that cause Barney's life and lies to spiral out of control, and Carlyle plays his sense of hopelessness and growing anger at his inability to change things quite wonderfully.
The sense of humour that runs through the film is as sharp as the razor that Barney uses at work. A lot of it comes from the situation that Barney gets himself into and a fair dose comes from Emma Thompson's turn as his ageing, bingo obsessed mother.
She delivers the "Glasgae banter" with aplomb and receives many of the films biggest laughs (although one does wonder if anyone outside of Scotland will understand what she is saying half the time).
The film's subplot about inter-departmental police rivalry could have done with a trim, or even a short back and sides, but Carlyle (in his first film as director) has delivered a accomplished tale of the macabre that should play well to audiences who enjoy a wild, wacky and wicked ride.
The Legend Of Barney Thomson was a cracking, crowd-pleasing choice for the new direction of the Edinburgh Film Festival and proved to be a bloody good laugh.

4 stars

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