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Thursday, March 18, 2021

[SXSW Review] ‘Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break’ Delivers Gory Charm

“If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.”

That quote by The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood is what opens Nick Gillespie‘s Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in for something dark and serious, at least until Philip Oakley and Giorgio Moroder’s “Together in Electric Dreams” begins blasting over the opening credits. It is then that you’re treated to a dance performance by the titular Paul Dood (Tom Meeten). You see, Paul is on Trend Ladder, the latest social media app in which people stream content and attempt to get the most views and engagement, which allows them to climb the rungs of the virtual ladder all the way to the top. Trend Ladder is hosting a talent show, and Paul is rehearsing for his big audition.

Unfortunately for Paul, the acts of 5 selfish people (including a pitiless priest and his callous assistant played by Love Actually‘s Kris Marshall and Prevenge‘s Alice Lowe, respectively) cause him to miss his audition. To top things off, something terrible happens to Paul once he finally arrives at the venue, sending him off the deep end and leading him to seek deathly revenge on those five people. The only problem is, he’s got one lunch break to complete his task, so he’s got to cram in five murders in one hour.

Think a drier, British-ier version of last year’s Spree (review) and you’ve got something akin to what Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is going for. Much like that film, Lunch Break somewhat acts as a critique of social media and our desire for attention in the black abyss that is the internet, but it’s not quite as biting as it needs to be. This is primarily because the film is more interested in making Paul an empathetic character, so the film tends to pull back if it’s getting too mean-spirited. This isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but one wishes that the film had something more on its mind.

One sticking point for viewers may be that Paul shares responsibility for the aforementioned terrible thing that happens to him, which sometimes makes it difficult to empathize with him. The film balances that out by making his victims absolutely reprehensible people, but they’re on screen for so little time that they’re basically glorified cameos. This is true of nearly every secondary character in the film, especially Katherine Parkinson‘s Clemmie, who acts as Paul’s love interest but is given so little to do that their romance falls a bit flat. This is regrettable, considering that Parkinson has more than proven herself as a gifted comedienne in shows like The IT Crowd.

Gillespie alternates between footage of Paul’s stream (complete with viewer comments) and a more traditional cinematic viewpoint, which keeps the film from getting too static, visually speaking. Cinematographer Billy J. Jackson films the death scenes with a certain amount of gravitas, which pairs nicely with their over-the-top nature. One particular kill elicited a howl of glee from this humble critic.

To contrast with the gory goodness we get with Paul’s revenge spree, we also get some tender scenes between him and his mother Julie (June Watson). Their scenes together inject a welcome amount of heart into the film. Meeten plays everything relatively straight, which makes the cartoonish side characters around him stand out even more. Unfortunately, the film often thinks it’s more clever than it actually is, but every scene is imbued with such charm that you’ll find yourself won over quite often. Humor is subjective, of course, so what works for you may not work for others.

All in all, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break makes for a fun diversion, if nothing else. It’s a shame it chooses not to do anything more with its admittedly outrageous premise, yet it somehow manages to juggle its variety of tones well, delivering an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break had its world premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival and is currently seeking distribution.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3655766/sxsw-review-paul-doods-deadly-lunch-break/

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