Dinner parties can prove fertile ground for genre content – after all, Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation remains one of my favourite offerings of the last decade or so.

Trying to put a British slant on things is writer/director Charlie Dorfman with Barbarians, a film that twists and turns its way through a taut 90-minute run time, picking at the scabs of the weakness of man to come up with something that, in the main, works well.

The essence of the story here is Adam (Iwan Rheon) and Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno), an artistic couple looking to buy a plush new property out in the sticks. While Adam is a writer and director for TV, Eve is the real breadwinner, a cutting-edge artist whose sculptures appear to be hot property.

The pair are buying the home from friend Lucas (Tom Cullen), a wheeler-dealer/influencer type that was involved in an unsavoury deal to secure the land from a farming family. Further complicating matters is the land borders a mystical druid site, complete with an obelisk that sees crowds flocking to it for various festivals and rituals.

Anyway, Lucas and his new squeeze Chloe (Ines Spiridonov) visit Adam and Eva for dinner, ostensibly to seal the deal, sign contracts and hand over the property. But when the foursome get together, various secrets will be revealed and the macho posturing of Lucas may even see things get out of hand…

The film arguably works best for the first hour, a subtle, slow-burning game of one-upmanship between the two couples which sees the veneer of friendship slowly peeled away to reveal four people (the two males especially) that are really just not that likeable.

But therein lies the problem – whether it be Lucas’s bullshit bravado, or Adam’s desperately ineffective persona, but you never really warm to them – and that becomes a real issue when the tone of the film takes a severe turn in the final act.

And it is the final act that lets the film down – as Barbarians slides into more predictable fare, the type we have seen numerous times before. It certainly remains effective – and bloody – but it is a shame that the film elected to segue into convention when it was doing so well to begin with.

The performances are fine from all involved – Rheon is all fidget and pained glances, while Cullen really is the type of character you love to hate. Moreno is no-nonsense and, while Spiridonov has less to work with, she also keeps the narrative driving forward well.

Dorfman clearly has talent – and some of the photography and drone footage adds a nice gloss to proceedings – but Barbarians, for me, can only really get a grade of good, but not great.

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About The Author

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Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle