Emma Thompson is the true legend in "The Legend of Barney Thompson"
In a rude contradiction to the film’s title, the character of Barney Thompson never quite reaches the lofty heights of his prescribed ‘legend’ status. In fact, ‘chump’ is a much better descriptor of our faltering, facially-constipated anti-hero. From there the film only seems to be riddled with more disappointing discrepancies. The impressive cinematography and mature noir-esque slant doesn’t at all match with the blundering comedic misadventures of the film's array of dislikeable characters.
Leading the charge of vileness is Emma Thompson’s Cemolina who is funnily enough the highlight of the film. The audience can take glee in this putrid bad-to-the-bone bingo bitch as Thompson dually hits the mark of comedic timing and softens the Glasweigan accent to a more consumable emery board level of abrasiveness. For Australian audiences, this watering-down would be most welcome as such verbal clarity isn’t always garnered from the rest of the cast. Although the seemingly foreign language only further emphasizes the rough-and-tumble retrograde atmosphere of Glasgow (which is both hilarious and terrifying in its realism).
The Legend of Barney Thompson marks the directorial debut of Robert Carlyle. Also stepping into the shoes of lead as Barney, Carlyle seems to stumble in tackling both roles. Maybe this is more indicative of his strength in directing and starring in drama as the film seemed at its tonally tightest during more serious shot sequences. When you can say you crafted a bleaker bingo scene than the writers of Better Call Saul, you’ve got to have some kind of natural talent for grisly drama.
I love black comedy, but The Legend of Barney Thompson fails to consecutively thrill. There are some moments of cackle-inducing gore but they feel more interspersed throughout the movie than thrown at the required cracking pace.
Lovers of Emma Thompson should definitely pop along to UWA Somerville before Sunday the 6th of March or to Joondalup Pines between the 8th and the 13th of March to see how abhorrently funny she can be. Click here for ticket details.