SXSW 21: Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break (2021) Review


The British are coming to SXSW! As Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break tries to win over the judges and audiences alike.

A weedy charity-shop worker is set on winning the big national talent show. But when the actions of 5 selfish people cause him to miss his audition, he sets out to seek deathly revenge. It’s 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders.

You wait ages for a film about someone who resorts to broadcasting murders on social media in search of fame and then two come along at once. 2020’s Spree saw Joe Keery livestream a murder spree within his Uber-esque ride in a very flashy, in-your-face social commentary. Paul Dood is a quintessentially British take on the old “15 minutes of fame” trope.

Paul is your atypical reality TV contestant. One who has been given false hope and praise by those around him and is destined for humiliation when the true lack of talent is revealed. Similar to the titular character he plays, Tom Meetan is looking for this “audition” to be his breakout role. He is a loveable loser and is quick to gain audience sympathy as the fates conspire against him to get to the audition. However when tragedy strikes, it is difficult to fully accept the narrative leap into Paul going full Michael Douglas in Falling Down. Albeit it through the lens of absurdist comedy.

Fans of British comedy will recognise a whole host of familiar faces from the big and small screen. From Alice Lowe and Steve Oram (Sightseers) to Katherine Parkinson (The I.T. Crowd) and Kevin Bishop. The director is clearly influenced by the comedic stylings of programmes like The Mighty Boosh and Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. Films like Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz excelled at walking the fine line between laugh-out-loud comedy and gasp-inducing moments of violence and gore.

Like the running order of the Royal Variety Show, the tone is constantly shifting with from broad to satire to black comedy. Jumping around more than the cast of Michael Flately’s Lord Of The Dance. The constant movement means that not every joke hits its target. The segment with Johnny Vegas as the owner of a culturally appropriated Japanese Tea Room would have been considered questionable back in the Carry On days but here it is just tone deaf.

One of the most important subplots of the film is Paul’s growing following on the Trend Ladder social media platform. Fuelled by Paul keeping his camera streaming live during the killing spree. There was huge potential to delve into the online reactions to the events. Beyond having comments pop up on the screen for a few miliseconds. It is the type of thing which would be smartly handled in a satirical Black Mirror style setting. The decision to purely focus on Paul however means that it smacks of a wasted opportunity.

Is Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break destined to top the charts and take the world by storm? In the words of a famous reality show judge, “It’s a no from me”.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Director: Nick Gillespie
Stars: Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Steve Oram, Alice Lowe
Runtime: 95 minutes
Country: UK

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