“If we were all judged by our thoughts, we would all be hanged.”
That quote from The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood is what opens Nick gillespie‘s Deadly Lunch Break by Paul Dood. You will be forgiven for thinking that something dark and serious awaits you, at least until Philip Oakley and Giorgio Moroder’s “Together in electric dreams“Start talking about the opening credits. That’s when you get invited to a dance performance by the titular Paul Dood (Tom Meeten). You see, Paul is on Trend Ladder, the ultimate social media app where people are streaming content and trying to get the most views and engagement, allowing them to climb the rungs of the virtual ladder 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 ruthless priest and his callous assistant played by Love actually‘s Kris marshall other Prevent‘s Alice lowe, respectively) cause your hearing to be lost. To top it all, something terrible happens to Paul once he finally reaches the scene, sending him deep into the deep end and leading him to seek deadly revenge against those five people. The only problem is, he has a lunch break to complete his task, so he has to score five kills in one hour.
Think of a three-British version of last year. Spree (review) and you have something similar to what Deadly Lunch Break by Paul Dood goes for. Like that movie, Lunch break In a way it acts as a critique of social media and our desire for attention in the black abyss that is the internet, but it is not as scathing as it should be. This is mainly because the movie is more interested in making Paul an empathetic character, so the movie tends to back off if it gets too petty. This is not a deal breaker by any means, but one wishes the movie had something else in mind.
A sticking point for viewers may be that Paul shares responsibility for the terrible thing that happens to him before, which sometimes makes it difficult to empathize with him. The movie balances that out by making its victims absolutely reprehensible people, but they’re on screen for such a short time that they’re basically glorified cameos. This is true for almost all the supporting characters in the movie, especially Katherine ParkinsonClemmie, who acts like Paul’s love interest, but has so little to do that their romance flops a bit. This is unfortunate, considering that Parkinson has proven herself to be a talented comedian on shows like The IT crowd.
Gillespie alternates between footage from Paul’s broadcast (complete with viewer commentary) and a more traditional cinematic point of view, which prevents the film from becoming too static, visually speaking. Director of photography Billy J. Jackson He shoots the death scenes with a certain seriousness, which blends in nicely with his exaggerated nature. One death in particular elicited a howl of glee from this humble critic.
To contrast with the bloody goodness we get from Paul’s revenge spree, we also have some cute scenes between him and his mother Julie (June Watson). Their scenes together inject a good amount of heart into the film. Meeten plays everything relatively straightforward, which makes the supporting characters around him stand out even more. Unfortunately, the movie often thinks he’s smarter than he really is, but each scene is infused with such charm that you’ll find yourself conquered quite often. Humor is subjective, of course, so what works for you may not work for others.
All in all Deadly Lunch Break by Paul Dood makes for fun fun, to say the least. It’s a shame that it chooses to do nothing else with its admittedly outrageous premise, but it somehow manages to juggle its shade variety well, providing a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes.
Deadly Lunch Break by Paul Dood had its world premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival and is currently seeking distribution.