Dark comedies, even at their most blood-soaked and
mean-spirited, only actually shock if they make us care about the
characters' fatal misfortunes -- or, at the very least, if their
onscreen survivors convince us they care.
the directorial debut of Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, is littered with
corpses, dismemberment and misanthropy. Shot in stark greys by Fabian
Wagner, it's true to its dour Glasgow setting. But it operates in such
an exaggeratedly heartless world -- even parents of the deceased can't
be bothered to mourn -- that we can laugh at untimely demises without
remorse. It's never more than superficially disturbing, but what it
lacks in boldness it more than makes up for with rude, vibrant wit.
stars as Barney, a reviled barber who lives with his sourpuss mom (a
divinely scabrous Emma Thompson, shrouding any trace of elegance in an
angry hunch and an unkempt ruby-red hairdo). Two workplace altercations
lead to two dopey accidental casualties, and soon Barney finds himself
the chief suspect in a serial-murderer pursuit.
Richard Cowan and Colin McLaren, the film is catnip for fans of Scottish
profanity ("Get fucked," "Go fuck," etc.), and if you have a tin ear
for the brogue, fear not: There are subtitles. Carlyle's Barney carries
the impetuousness of his Begbie in Trainspotting, but it's
infused with much wheezing and whimpering, which makes him the perfect
foil for Ray Winstone's lumbering, enervated detective; it's like
watching an incompetent Petrovich interrogate a hypersensitive
Raskolnikov. And whenever things drag, the buoyant pop soundtrack kicks
in like a tonic -- Roy Orbison's downbeat yet goofy "Blue Bayou" is the
perfect accompaniment to a bungled corpse-drowning mission.
Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, James Cosmo, Martin Compston, Ashley Jensen, Tom Courtenay
Read the LA Weekly review here.