If there’s one thing that the British public adore, it’s a talent show. For the last decade or so, UK television has been overrun with shows such as The X-Factor, The Voice, and Britain’s Got Talent, with audiences having an almost insatiable appetite for them. These shows allow members of the public to demonstrate their unique talents and abilities, and even catapult some of them to stardom. Our obsession with talent shows, and the celebrity phenomenon itself, form the basis of Nick Gillespie’s new movie, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break.
The titular Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) is a mild-mannered charity shop worker with dreams of being a star. Living at home with his ill mother, the pair have spent the last few months preparing for Paul’s audition for TV talent show – Trend Ladder. When his audition is unexpectedly brought forward, Paul and his mother race to the venue, but meet several snags along the way. After encounters with a stream of selfish people lead him to missing out on his chance at fame and fortune, Paul sets out on seeking revenge. Once prepared, he puts his epic mission of retaliation into play over one hectic lunch break.
Tom Meeten is brilliant as the lovable loser Paul Dood. From the instant we meet Paul it’s clear that he’s a bit of an eccentric. His cringe-inducing audition piece is doomed from the start, but much like Eddie in Eddie the Eagle, it’s Paul’s can-do attitude and determination that wins us over. Our immediate connection to him asserts the viewer firmly into team Dood; there’s no ambiguity, we’re meant to root for the underdog to take down those that wronged him. Surrounding Meeten are some of the strongest talents in British comedy, featuring appearances from Katherine Parkinson, Johnny Vegas, Alice Lowe, Kris Marshall, and Kevin Bishop, the latter of whom is fantastic as high-maintenance diva, Judge Jack Tapp.
The journey to the audition is excruciating to watch unfold on-screen. Gillespie expertly generates intense levels of anxiety as Paul hits roadblock after roadblock along the way. We’ve all had those days where we’ve been late to something important for reasons out of our control and Gillespie replicates those feelings exactly, pushing the viewer to the edge of a panic attack. Each character gets progressively worse and though over-exaggerated in places, we’ve all met a version of them in some guise or another. When Dood embarks on his anger-fuelled mission you’ll be screaming, shouting, and cheering him on. It’s a strange sensation to be wishing people dead, but these aren’t real people, and they have been constructed as the most extreme kinds of stereotypes. The murders are fantastically gory and inventive. Amongst the many to behold, a personal favourite is one involving a steamroller that rivals Maximum Overdrive in intensity, imagination, and silliness.
A subversive, wickedly funny, horror dramagedy in the vein of Prevenge, Nick Gillespie’s tale of a marginalised man breaking free is a delightful watch. Enjoyment levels are further lifted by the inclusion of a mighty eighties soundtrack, with the film offering a very fresh perspective on Together in Electric Dreams. Moments of real anguish and pathos break through the humour every now and then, making it something more than just a disposable comedy vessel. Eagle the Eagle by way of Prevenge; you’ll laugh, cry, cheer and revel in its wonderfully British quirky humour.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break was reviewed at SXSW Festival 2021.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break isn’t a gritty hyper-real scarefest, but rather a dark-hearted romp that celebrates the silly and macabre. It might make you winch, but said winching will likely be from your sides splitting.