Eugene van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn) is a small-town barber hiding a dark secret. Twenty years earlier he was arrested 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 twist and turns, you’ll realize there’s much more to evil than you could ever imagine.
"Listen, everywhere you go, you are leaving puzzle pieces for anyone who's looking."
It feels like every other day there is another trailer for a movie that seems to have an interesting concept or hook that peaks your interest, but then leaves you feeling flat and dissatisfied when you get to the show. While there are many movies that get dumped direct to VOD or onto disc that are underrated gems that everyone should see, there are still many more that either should be avoided at all costs, or just aren't worth the effort. 'The Barber' is one of those movies that threads the needle between these two worlds. On one hand it has a great performance from its lead actor and an interesting idea behind it, but on the other hand it's a movie that winds up being unmemorable by the closing shot.
Eugene Van Wingerdt (Scott Glenn) lives a quiet solitary life as a small town barber. He's taken a troubled youth under his wing to apprentice as he rubs elbows with the local Police Chief (Stephen Tobolowsky). One night after enjoying his evening meal at his favorite restaurant, Eugene is accosted by John (Chris Coy) a shadowy drifter who claims to know Eugene's hidden past.
No matter how much Eugene protests and maintains his innocence, John doesn't let up. John knows the deep dark secret that Eugene has managed to keep hidden for decades - Eugene is really a reclusive serial killer from Chicago who would burry young women and leave them to suffocate. John doesn't wan't to expose Eugene, he wants to learn from the man. He wants to learn from the worst killer in history who managed to slip away from justice due to lack of evidence.
It turns out Eugene isn't the only one with a dark secrete to hide. John is in fact a Chicago police officer whose father was the original detective working the case and was driven to suicide. John is out for revenge and is willing to tread a thin line of right and wrong to bring the real killer to light, the one he knows lives in Eugene's dark heart. As John worms his way into Eugene's life, fellow Chicago Police Officer Audrey Bennet (Kristen Hager), Johns former lover, threatens to derail his entire plan as she works to save John from an even darker fate.
'The Barber' should have been a compelling film. Given the talent on screen, I came away from this one let down. I wasn't expecting much to begin with but the film itself feels like it takes a long way to go no where fast. On the surface of this plot, it isn't too hard to draw some comparisons from this film to NBC's 'Hannibal.' A killer knowingly takes an adversary as a partner and trains him to be just like him. Heck, there's even a fellow female detective that strives to keep the hero on the straight and narrow, only here, all of the effort feels wasted. I never thought I would ever say this about any movie, but the biggest problem for this particular film is there is entirely too much talking and not nearly enough doing. And when someone is doing something, it's just not interesting or the character acts in a way so completely counterintuitive to common sense that it just left me confused. I wasn't confused about what was happening on screen, I got that plain and simple, I just kept asking "Why would anyone do that?"
Performances certainly aren't the issue here. The principal cast with Scott Glenn, Chris Coy, Kristen Hager, and Stephen Tobolowsky are all doing their best to make things interesting, but they're just not given anywhere to go with the material. Scott Glenn is always great so seeing him play things a bit crazy was kind of fun, but he wasn't allowed to go full crazy soon enough. Chris Coy does well enough in his role, but I've seen him do better in 'True Blood' and most recently in 'The Walking Dead.' Ever since 'Sneakers' or 'Groundhog Day' or even 'Deadwood' for that matter, Stephen Tobolowsky has always been a reliable and entertaining addition to any cast, only here he feels wasted and given very little to do except be grumpy. Kristen Hager has become a fine enough actress in recent years and she's doing her best here, but every time I see her I'm always reminded of her role in 'AVP: Requiem' and I can't help but laugh a little more than I should.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the film is the script by Max Enscoe. With his background in TV series and movies of the week, 'The Barber' just feels like it's stumbling from ad break to ad break. The actors are given just a few precious moments of screentime every 10 to 15 minutes to establish a sense of character but what they're given could have been said in a single line or done in a single action rather than an entire scene.
Thrillers are like magic acts, the audience wants to see the trick and guess how it was done. But knowing how David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear ruins the fun. 'The Barber' telegraphs all of its tricks before they're performed so there is little mystery or wonder left by the end. Granted, this is not the worst triller to ever make it in front of my eyes, it just wasn't as fun as I was hoping it would be. I can see where some people could like this one, and it's certainly worth watching for Scott Glenn, so give it a rent or if you come up on it channel surfing - give it a whirl.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Barber' makes its Blu-ray arrival from Arcentertainment pressed on a BD25 disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray case with slip cover, the disc opens to a pair of trailers for upcoming releases before arriving at the main menu.
While pressed on a BD25 disc, 'The Barber' doesn't shave anything off the picture quality! God I hate myself for that pun. What I mean to say is that the 2.35:1 1080p transfer looks strikingly impressive. Detail is exquisite throughout offering a lot to see from close up, medium, and long shots. It helps that unlike so many other independent made thrillers, the filmmakers didn't feel the need to grade the color darker than it already was. Lending itself nicely to this production was the color tone. Much of the film is intended to evoke the look and feel of small town anywhere america and the warm yellows and deep greens help bring that feeling home. Flesh tones are nice and even - they may drift a tad towards the yellow in places but not so bad as to make them look jaundiced. Other than some slight banding and a little haloing in just a few shots there really isn't anything to fault this transfer for.
With an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track at its disposal, 'The Barber' scores some big points for sound. The track has a lot of life and imaging to it. This is a film with a lot of ambient noises as there are frequent rainy scenes or instances with a lot of background noise and everything comes through with crystal clarity. Levels are nice and even, keeping to the midranges. The movie is very dialogue heavy so unless its motivated, most of the dialogue keeps to the center channels freeing up the sides for music and sound effects. This is a nicely layered track that complements the quiet deliberate pace of this movie very nicely. It's never a strain to hear anything and you never have to ride your volume during the run.
Alternate Ending: (HD 3:19) An odd ending that tries to spin the results a bit differently, kinda works, but good they left it on the floor.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 9:33) A collection of deleted scenes that really didn't add much to the show.
Scene Extensions: (HD 3:11) Two extended scenes that only add a few more seconds to scenes as they already happened.
Trailer: (HD 2:20) A decent enough trailer that sells the idea of the movie well.
Coming off of binge watching Marvel's 'Daredevil' on Netflix, I was actually kind of excited to see a tough-guy Scott Glenn. While 'The Barber' isn't necessarily that same role, he proves himself again to be a great actor with whatever role he's given. I just wish the final movie was worth a little more of the time put into it. The picture and audio quality are outstanding and the extra features shed some light on where and how some scenes could have played out. While I may not have loved the movie, this Blu-ray release is certainly worth a rent and if you're a fan and want the purchase, you should be more than pleased.