The Legend Of Barney Thomson, film review: Emma Thompson steals the show in wry comedy

(15) Robert Carlyle, 96 mins. Starring: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone
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The Independent Culture

Robert Carlyle's debut feature as a director is galvanised by a brilliant comic performance from Emma Thompson as the hapless hero Barney's formidable, chain-smoking, fur-coat-wearing harridan of a mum. Imagine Dame Edith Evans crossed with Rab C Nesbitt and you'll come close to Cemolina. A former prostitute in her 70s, she is strident and domineering; she loves bingo but has a dark side.

Carlyle is in engagingly forlorn groove as Barney, the put-upon barber who doesn't have any patter to keep his customers happy and whose life, at least at the start of the film, is dull in the extreme.

This is a wry comedy with a morbid plot that includes mass murder and bodies chopped up. Sometimes, the tone wavers. The combination of violence with tongue-in-cheek humour and picture-postcard scenery doesn't always work. A subplot involving incompetent police risks becoming strained. By far its most vivid presence, Thompson steals the movie.