Recalling Levinson's aluminum siding-pitching comedy "Tin Men," the script by leading man Barry McEvoy follows the wacky complications that ensue when two young barbers attempt to take over Northern Ireland's only men's hair piece franchise. The scrappy Catholic Colm (McEvoy) and confrontation-fearing Protestant George (Brían F. O'Byrne) aren't guys to let their different religions get in the way of making a bundle off Belfast's "unserviced baldies," but their efforts to beat out rival rug salesman take the inevitable political turn when they cross paths with the IRA. This sets up an interesting moral dilemma for Colm that veers the film in a more serious direction, but Levinson and company fail to weave this and the lighter-hearted strands of the storyline into a satisfying whole--a shame since many of the film's individual parts are fresh and unpredictable.
On the upside, Belfast native McEvoy (the 1999 remake of "Gloria") shares an enjoyably offbeat chemistry with O'Byrne (HBO's "Oz") that makes much of the early material as funny as it is strange. They get strong support from the terrific Anna Friel (the 1999 screen version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream") as Colm's assertive girlfriend and what may be some of Ireland's better bald character actors as various high-maintenance toupee customers. Still, it's hard to imagine this curious little Irish tale getting a U.S. release, much less the Oscar-season push it's receiving from DreamWorks, if it hadn't come from a Hollywood power player of Levinson's stature. Starring Barry McEvoy, Brían F. O'Byrne, Anna Friel and Billy Connolly. Directed by Barry Levinson. Written by Barry McEvoy. Produced by Mark Johnson, Louis DiGiaimo, Jerome O'Connor, Barry Levinson and Paula Weinstein. A DreamWorks release. Comedy. Rated R for language. Running time: 103 min.