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July 29, 2017

The Barber

by Franz Patrick


Barber, The (2014)
★ / ★★★★

John McCormack (Chris Coy) seeks a man that he believes to be a serial killer who got away with seventeen murders twenty years ago. This man, Eugene Van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn), is now in his fifties, possibly sixties, and is working as a barber in a small town. John hopes to gain Eugene’s trust and become the man’s apprentice. In doing so, it is like confessing to the crimes he had in fact committed. However, it is no easy task considering that Eugene is a very smart, careful, deeply private person.

Based on the screenplay by Max Enscoe, “The Barber” is a mystery-thriller that never gets a chance to truly take off. Although the premise of a cop pretending to be a novice murderer is interesting, he undergoes no inner transformation as his journey requires him to visit dark places. Glenn’s decision to underplay his characters’ yearning to kill is the best thing about this underwhelming movie.

John is not written as a protagonist we cannot help but root for. The problem is that his personality is between a really good guy and an antihero. There is no substance to him; there are flashbacks of his childhood involving a drunk father who became so obsessed with his work that it ultimately consumed him, but these do not detail the inner sanctum of a law enforcement officer who had gone rogue. Coy is good at looking glum and moody but it all comes across as artificial.

More frustrating is how Audrey, John’s girlfriend who also happens to be a cop, is represented. At first she is introduced as a strong woman who is intelligent and knows how to handle herself in tricky situations. Over time, however, she turns into an object requiring to be rescued by her man. Because she makes such a strong first impression, I was excited because I considered the possibility that perhaps she really is the central protagonist all along, the secret ingredient that must be introduced into the small town in order for the serial killer to finally get his comeuppance. It would have been a fresh move, but alas, it did not turn out to be that way.

Not enough detail is put into this specific serial killer’s methods. Although the character’s obsession with neatness and cleanliness is more of the point, we never see if he has any rituals or signatures he cannot help but perform or inflict upon his prey. This makes the character a less interesting subject.

Directed by Basel Owies, “The Barber” offers neither standout cinematography nor does it employ eye-catching or creative camera angles when we are supposed to be engaged in the action. Moving at a leisurely pace from beginning to end, it is a bit of a bore because it fails to offer anything new, surprising, or exciting in terms of character and visuals when it comes to the serial killer genre.

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