Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break, 2021.
Co-written and directed by Nick Gillespie.
Starring Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas, Steve Oram, Craig Parkinson, Kevin Bishop, and Pippa Haywood.
A weedy charity-shop worker is set on winning the big national talent show. But when the actions of five selfish people cause him to miss his audition, he sets out to seek deathly revenge. It’s one lunch break, five spectacular murders.
Cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Nick Gillespie’s (Tank 432) new film could be described as the bastard child of Falling Down, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, and last year’s Spree – if resolutely less successful and entertaining than any one of those three.
The title character (Tom Meeten) is an aspiring singer-dancer who still lives at home with his dear, infirm mother Julie (June Watson). On the day of his audition for a national talent show, he encounters five separate people who cause him to miss his appointment, five people who have collectively pushed him too far.
And so, Paul decides to strike back, launching a murderous, livestreamed rampage of revenge against his five transgressors on his lunch break, which while not going exactly as planned, nevertheless turns him into a viral superstar, all while the police close in on his position.
There’s a looseness to Gillespie’s film which will likely be pure Marmite for audiences; on one hand the seat-of-your-pants, improv-heavy feel has its charms – akin to student filmmakers throwing their scant resources together – yet not the comedy, violence, nor satire are potent enough to paper over all the dead air.
After a first act full of broad, infrequent laughs, the tone shifts to something darker, though even then, the various death scenes – which, in the vein of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, are mostly accidents – play things pretty soft. Save for a howlingly nauseating sequence involving a steamroller, that is.
Thematically this is a pretty basic takedown of fame and what that means in the social media age; YouTube is subbed out for a fictional equivalent called “TrendLadder,” with Paul desperate to bolster his rank by any means necessary. Though the lampooning of our ever-shortening attention spans and the increasing opacity of online news more-or-less hits the mark, the satirical throughline is extremely straight-forward. With so many other movies having tackled these subjects with greater gusto, this take ends up feeling a bit pat and toothless.
The cast mostly sings, at least; Tom Meeten, who turned many heads with his strong performance in 2016’s The Ghoul, nails the increasing despair of a man who realises his big break probably isn’t coming, while wracked with regret over his inability to provide quality care for his mother.
The supporting cast of villains is meanwhile filled out by a number of recognisable names and faces; Steve Oram plays an asshole train station employee, Johnny Vegas shows up as a flagrantly racist Japanophile, Alice Lowe and Kris Marshall are a pair of disingenuous Irish bible-bashers, and Kevin Bishop is the obnoxious talent show host Jack Tapp.
They all inject some much-needed energy into the story, though like the remainder of the support players – namely the ever-terrific Mandeep Dhillon, who appears as a community support officer trying to diffuse the situation – they’re beholden to the limitations of the script.
Despite being directed by a talented DP, it’s also surprising how pedestrian and flavourless the film looks visually, touting a flatness which even a peppy, hard-driving electronic score from Dan Baboulene can only elevate so much.
A not-terrible idea for a short film which doesn’t have the mileage or invention to sustain over 90 minutes, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break may not be a chore to sit through, but doesn’t squeeze nearly enough out of its satirical premise.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.