Directed by Barry Levinson, starring Barry McEvoy, Brían F O'Byrne, Anna Friel and Billy Connolly.

While Barry Levinson has directed a handful of 'buddy movies' over the last 20 years ('Rain Man', 'Good Morning Vietnam', 'Diner'), 'An Everlasting Piece' ranks as his most offbeat to date, mixing good gags with heartfelt drama as it examines a friendship across the North's cultural divide. Barry McEvoy is Colm, a Catholic barber who gets a job cutting in an insane asylum and finds that his partner in clippers is George (O'Byrne), a Protestant with a penchant for spouting poetry at the drop of a hair. When a new patient, 'The Scalper' (Billy Connolly), arrives for a long-term stay, Colm and George discover that he was once Belfast's most successful wig salesman and set about looking up his old clients.

By now alarms bells should be jumping off walls at the thought of an American director making a film about Northern Ireland involving wigs, the RUC and the IRA, but 'An Everlasting Piece' avoids both the lowest common denominator of cultural comedy and resists the type of schmaltz that US audiences demand with their popcorn. For the first 40 minutes it's extremely funny as Colm and George go door-to-door with their rugs and toe-to-toe with the crazies on both sides. The cast (a criminally undervalued Billy Connolly aside) is strong throughout with McEvoy and O'Byrne turning in an excellent act as the oddest of couples.

However, in the second half of the film, when the characters are forced to decide between their principles and a quick buck, the film takes on a more serious tone and loses some of its sparkle in the process. The actual dilemma they face is worked into the plot very well (selling wigs to the Provos so that they can provide one of them with an alibi) but it's as if in trying to tackle the bigger issues the film loses what made it so quirky in the first place. Levinson has been nominated for screenwriting Oscars in the past and you feel that he could have brought a stronger guiding hand to bear on Barry McEvoy's debut script.

A film with many moments that do not add up to the sum of its parts.

Harry Guerin