Barney Thomson, a Scottish barber from Glasgow. His mundane life shows nothing more than mediocrity and the longing for something more. On the verge of losing his job, Barney’s life is turned upside down as the smallest stumble for a second chance results in his first murder.
Robert Carlyle, who plays Barney in the film adaptation based on a novel by Douglas Lindsay, portrays the character in a way that captures his audience. Barney’s accidental life of a serial killer turns comical as he looks for help from his mother Cemolina (played by Emma Thompson), a hardy mother who causes quite a stir of events throughout the film. As the relationship between mother and son is explored, the more hilarious and side-splitting the film becomes; as the darkest of events occurs, the running commentary of Cemolina (an old comedic character) keeps the audience laughing. Thompson brilliantly portrays her character in a way that allows us to fall in love with her in the film as she verbally abuses her son, yet helps him cover up his crimes in the most unusual ways: hosting celebratory wakes for her elderly friends, when just a few hours before she becomes involved with Barney’s crime, keeps a light-hearted spin on the situation whilst we witness Barney experiencing constant episodes of panic.
Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Holdall, played by Ray Winstone, is on the receiving end of mysterious killings. His routine questioning brings himself to the anxiously suspicious Barney. Together, they create a tense atmosphere, and for the first time you want the serial killer to dodge the bullet; Barney’s sweet and remorseful character (with the tendency to attract very bad luck) makes you fall in love with this mess of a man.
Carlyle is well known for his performances in Trainspotting (1996), Once Upon a Time (2011) and The Full Monty (1997). His new path as a director and main character appears promising. Although the plot and cast are stimulating and engaging, the general direction of the film is very slow. Boredom can creep up on you in-between as the general length of time between the exciting occurrences is quite distant and slow moving. However, Carlyle’s work as a director seems promising for his first independent British film. His directing may have room for improvement but his acting performance proves outstanding; he grasped his character with such a lovable approach, allowing us to sympathise with his character the more he experiences the traumatic exposure of his mother’s past.