While Dublin is not without its share of private investigator services, the idea of staging a Raymond Chandler-esque drama in the city might feel a tad contrived at the best of times. As ‘dubh’ as the capital may be, it is not a noirish place. The streets aren’t illuminated by neon. The citizens aren’t evasively terse in their replies, and the smoking ban tends to spoil the atmospherics.
Still, if a director has Aidan Gillen as their lead, what the city otherwise lacks is more than made up for in his hardboiled demeanour and inimitably ambiguous husky accent. Fortunately, such is the case with Barber, the latest feature from Fintan Connolly, in which Gillen takes the role of Val Barber, private investigator.
In what feels like an extended pilot for a series, Barber is introduced as a jaded former member of the Gardai, who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. Once hired by a wealthy widow to track down the whereabouts of her missing granddaughter, he is forced to face his own identity, while delving into the murk of police corruption, predatory politicians and shady art dealers.
Barber is formulaic in its plot points but riveting in its ability to subvert expectations at decisive moments. It is not self-conscious about staging a Philip Marlowe style detective drama in Dublin. Nor does it uncomfortably strive to force this setting into imitating 1920s Los Angeles. Instead, it steals from the genre, and finds a way of repurposing it as a rather interesting commentary on how Irish society is reappraising its old system of values.
Words: Michael Lanigan
Director: Fintan Connolly
Talent: Aiden Gillen, Aisling Kearns, Gary Lydon, Liam Carney
Release Date: April 14