I am both a champion of independent film and a fan of thrillers. I’m old enough to be part of the “Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes” generation of filmgoers and still young enough that I had to see Basic Instinct with my mom (She insisted — my dad hates the movies). I was quite a celebrity at the age of fourteen, having witnessed Sharon Stone in her commando glory and was available for a cafeteria press conference on the dirty details. What offended me the most was not the sex and drugs but the obvious and clunky direction. “Of course it was her!” my mother and I complained later at home, over cake. I have always been a student in suspense and noir. It is with a heavy heart that I report a “meh, with the candlestick in the library” for The Barber. The Barber, formerly Trigger, is a film released by Chapman Films in 2014 and Arc Entertainment. Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts have created Chapman Films as an outfit to microbudget film projects through the school. The film, a supposed treatise on “…The enormity of evil”, was directed by Chapman alum Basel Owies with a screenplay by Max Eriscoe. Chris Coy, mugging like a young Ed Norton, plays John McCormack, a man bent on hunting down and exposing the killer his father was unable to convict for a string of murders. He has tracked the alleged killer, now living under the radar as an unassuming barber, to a quaint suburb on the outskirts of Chicago. What transpires must have been promising in the brainstorming stage but flatlines under its own attempt to be a QUIET-THINKING-MAN’S-THRIILER. Scott Glenn plays the born-again barber, Eugene Van Wingerdt, with relish. He spends much of the movie spouting adages like a stern school master, admonishing his young cocky apprentice for using profanity. He smiles with unblinking blandness and wears his quotidian like his pressed trousers. His day always ends at the diner where he exchanges pleasantries with Chief Hardaway (yup) and Kelli-the-burlesque-waitress (more on her later.) It is only when McCormack shuffles in that Van Wingerdt’s poker face falters for a flash. Thus begins an uneven game of cat and mouse, encased in a façade of apex predator vs. apex predator. Throw in McCormack’s concerned ex-girlfriend, Audrey, who insists on joining the mix and you have a movie that really wanted to be a smartly nuanced thriller when it grew up. Director Owies achieves a sotto voce ambience. No, really, I had the volume up on 13. This is unfortunately juxtaposed with heavy-handed bread crumbs that left me feeling defensive. Yes, I understand that this scene is from twenty years ago because that’s a really old game controller. Dad is a cop, there’s his badge on the table. (McCormack will clutch it like a binky on his journey.) Spoiler Alert: Audrey (Kristen Hager) picks up some dropped mail and discovers a collage under the kitchen table! We have to assume it’s recent since he wouldn’t have secured such a clandestine location for his summer camp serial killer CSI junior project if Audrey was still living there. And then there’s that straight razor. Even in the moody, brooding movie poster, Glenn as Van Wingerdt holds the razor at his side. It’s coveted by his apprentice and I do believe that traditionally barbers are possessive about their razors. Suffice it to say that I felt the razor could have been used in a clever way. There just isn’t anything that surprising about somebody suspected of serial killings finding a way to carry a razor in their vocation. Yes, his clients trust him with the razor and we don’t know for sure (wink, wink) whether he’s really a serial killer but if he’s a killer, then golly gee, what a rush to be trusted by those unsuspecting townsfolk. Can we please talk about Kelli (Olivia Taylor Dudley) the waitress? I would normally refer to the person who takes your order as a server but Kelli is a Waitress with a capital W. She feels the need to divulge the exact route she takes home in casual conversation with her patrons. She has a finely tuned flirt frequency with each patron. And her uniform was delivered directly from Frederick’s of Hollywood since General Uniform Inc clearly didn’t have her size. I’m appalled on many levels at Kelly’s fate during the course of the film. A film that seemed to have good intentions falls prey to a tired chestnut of B movie production standards. Kelli wants to move to the city, she wants to have a good time, blah, blah, blah. I can think of any number of ways that the twist in Kelli’s story could have been smarter. Instead she gets swept up in the tug of war at the heart of our story with nary a curt Fare Thee Well. The Barber is not a bad movie. I tip my hat to any film maker on a micro budget that works to achieve their vision. As an independent film, it works. The narrative truly wants to understand why good people lose their minds chasing bad people and whether the winner can truly take it all, good or bad. Does evil equalize all good to bad along the way? As a philosophical study it poses valid questions. Scott Glenn is compelling as both meek and creepy, with ripples of snake skin beneath his khaki jacket. Chris Coy tries his hardest to wrestle with vengeance, attitude and sociopathic tendencies in equal measure. The story ends with a difficult moral dilemma that I’m sure will spark debate for some time. Is it a meditation on the nature of evil? Sure, but I think calling the movie a thriller is a reach when the answers are clearly laid out for us and at no point did I bite my nails, jump in my seat or have any doubt as to the intention of anyone in the story. The Barber will be available on VOD and in select theaters Friday, March 27th. See larger image The Barber [Blu-ray] New From: $1.61 USD In Stock Advance Review: The Barber (2015)Mary's Rating3.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.