Good acting and sharp editing make “The Barber” a most engrossing serial killer thriller. But too much talk, mostly in a lecturing over-explained finale, almost undoes all of that.
Scott Glenn has the title role, a Chicago man once a “person of interest” in 17 Chicago murders — young female victims were often buried alive — now an elderly, mild-mannered barber with a different name in a small Midwestern town.
Glenn, who has conveyed both menace and quiet kindness in a career that has had him playing convicts (“Urban Cowboy”) and FBI agents (“The Silence of the Lambs”) , is well-cast as a man who won’t stand for profanity, a friend to all, but with just a touch of menace.
Chris Coy of “The Walking Dead” is a young man who shows up in town, identifies the former Francis Visser, possible serial killer, and threatens him.
“I know that that itch doesn’t die,” the kid says. “Teach me how not to get caught.”
A clue about who he is. When the small town sheriff (Stephen Tobolowsky) arrests and roughs up the kid, the boy gives his name as “J.D. LaRue.” That’s a cop from TV’s “Hill Street Blues.” We’ve seen a cop, years before, kill himself over failing to build a case against Visser — a cop with a son.
Now, some stranger with serial killer leanings wants Visser to guide him.
“Class starts tomorrow,” the old man purrs.
The old man tells his protege to “Be clean, don’t rush…”Everywhere you go, you’re leaving puzzle pieces.”
And the kid learns — an oversexed waitress here, a rain-soaked hitchhiker there.
Meanwhile, back in Chicago, we meet a cliched garter belted hooker (Kristen Hager) who turns out to be a cop, and turns out to know the kid. She tracks him down to intervene.
Director Basel Owies deftly keeps parallel storylines marching forward, maintaining suspense despite the occasional lapse into situations that were worn out back when “Hill Street Blues” was on the air.
And as we head to the inevitable, predictable conclusion, the monologues lengthen and logic goes out the door. But in spite of its failings, chatty and otherwise, this “Barber” still delivers a pretty close shave.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexual material
Cast: Scott Glenn, Chris Coy,Kristen Hager,Stephen Tobolowsky
Credits: Directed by Basel Owies, written by Max Enscoe. An ARC release.
Running time: 1:30