Eugene van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn) is a small-town barber hiding a dark secret. Twenty years earlier he was arrested for several gruesome murders, but was released due to insufficient evidence. The detective in charge of the case killed himself in despair. Now the detective’s son is in town, with a few secrets of his own. Is he seeking revenge or hoping to learn at the feet of the master? Through the film’s myriad twists and turns, you’ll realize there’s much more to evil than you ever could imagine.
The Barber attempts to fix a rather bland serial killer thriller script by dressing it up as best as it can. Scott Glenn is brought on as the lead who turns in a captivating performance. The direction is tight and edited with a real sense of danger and darkness. The atmosphere of the small town is perfect and believable as well. But despite all the trimming and highlighting first-time director Basel Owies places on this production, it just can’t shake the shortcomings of a script that’s mostly reliant on plot twists.
This is a thriller that’s filled with too many “or is it?” moments. Detective Thomas McCormack (Chris Coy) helms an undercover investigation of small-town barber Francis Visser (Scott Glenn) who he believes to be a killer. Or is he? Thomas digs a little deeper and gets closer to the old man who takes him under his wing. It seems as though he is quite skilled in tracking down people to kill. Or is he? He could just be faking it to string this pretend killer student to maybe take him out for his horrible actions. Or is he? The plot is such a mess of maybes that it’s just a ridiculously stupid series of twists. Or is it? YES, it is!
Playing as a low-rent version of Mr. Brooks, Basel Owies manages to remove all the thrill and tension from this story. He seems to be leaving it all up to Scott Glenn to carry this picture. For the most part, he carries it well. I could never take my eyes off him with a charming presence that hides a darker side. He’s incredibly believable as a kindly old man you wouldn’t expect to be a killer. In fact, when he actually does start playing the role of the killer, he feels very out of place. His crusty codger routine just doesn’t play well as when he is in psychopath mode. By the third act, I was almost entirely taken out of the movie watching Glenn killing and cackling.
If you think he seems out of character, Chris Coy seems determined to outmatch him as another character hiding secrets. He’s given a motive to want to pursue Glenn and find out the truth about his past, but it’s muddled by plot twists and his undercover persona. Who tries to be taken on as a killer’s apprentice by stating “I’m your biggest fan” in public and then cut him with a knife to prove you are serious? If you think that’s insane, you won’t believe the lengths he goes to for impressing Glenn by tracking down women to stalk and murder. No, wait, that can’t possibly compare to the grand finale where Coy’s character makes one of the most ludicrous and dark decisions for a cop apprehending a killer.
You’ll be amazed by how many twists are present in the film to the point where none of them make sense. It keeps the story unpredictable and nonsensical so that it’s always surprising with moments that will have you flipping tables. But in between the moments of stupid decisions to move the story along, there are bits and pieces of a cat and mouse film that work surprisingly well. There’s a beautifully shot scene where Visser shaves McCormack at his barbershop, regaling the would-be killer with his tales of murders. As if it were another plot twist, the dialogue turns surprisingly well written. The camera work in this scene is beautiful with several different shots and there’s is just a hint of tension with the use of a straight razor. It’s one of many scenes that start up strong only to be taken down a peg by the less impressive plot development.
The Barber is very underwhelming in how it features several ingredients for a taught thriller, but is still missing a few key components to make it work (like common sense). The movie plays more as a collection of brilliant bits from the best psycho-thrillers than a complete narrative that’s entertaining to follow from beginning to end. You may find yourself engrossed with the actors in some of their exchanges, but you'll be skipping forward when the third act drones on and on with dialogue amid murders most absurd.
You rated this film: 2
Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification
Join the Cinema Paradiso DVD rental and Blu-ray Rental service today and get a Free DVD rental trial. Sign up today!