Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is the second directorial effort from Nick Gillespie, who is best known for his work as Ben Wheatley’s go-to cameraman. His contribution to films like Kill List and In the Earth has earned him well-deserved awards and accolades. His first feature, the bizarre horror film Tank 432 on the other hand, earned well-deserved obscurity. How will this dark comedic mashup of Britain’s Got Talent and Death Wish fare?
Paul Dood (Tom Meeten, The Ghoul, Sightseers) is convinced that he’s destined for stardom. The fact that he’s in his forties works in a charity shop and lives with his mother Julie (June Watson, The Death of Stalin, The Lady in the Van) doesn’t deter him. After all, she believes in him and so does Clemmie (Katherine Parkinson, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People) a cleaner at the mall where he works.
Paul has his sights set on winning a talent contest run by Trend Ladder, a TikTok-styled app, and hosted by media personality Jack Tapp (Kevin Bishop, Assassinaut, Muppet Treasure Island). But when run-ins with several selfish people not only cause him to blow his audition but result in his mother’s death he vows revenge. Of course, the actual path of revenge is neither as easy nor as glamorous as Paul’s fantasies lead him to believe it will be. Especially as he has to get it all done on his lunch break.
Gillespie, along with co-writers Katherine Parkinson and Matthew White (The Final Haunting), takes aim at a lot of targets during Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. Social media and reality TV are the most obvious. But, via those on Paul’s kill list such as the self-entitled clergyman (Kris Marshall, Deathwatch, The Merchant of Venice) who stole their taxi or the petty bureaucrat station manager (Steve Oram, A Dark Song, School’s Out Forever) who caused them to miss their train, other facets of society come under the hammer as well.
They may have cast their net a little too widely however as, at times, it feels a bit superficial. And some of the film’s elements, such as the satirical commentary on his homicidal live stream, have been done to death already in films like Spree and Shook.
There’s no denying Tom Meeten’s performance is a highlight of Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break though. Going from a bumbling but loveably self-deluded mama’s boy who is put through hell by uncaring assholes to, in his fantasies, a ruthless and ruthlessly efficient vigilante. In reality, he’s still bumbling, but his targets end up dead regardless. It’s an impressive range, highlighted by those fantasies where, with his gaunt looks, chilling grin, and makeup darkened eyes, he looks like an early stages Joker as played by Alice Cooper.
The fates of his targets, while not what he planned, are wickedly enjoyable and frequently nasty. That includes seppuku and the best use of a steamroller since Maximum Overdrive. They’re enjoyably cathartic as well as gory, which is what the ideal revenge film kill should be.
Paul’s spree ends with, of all things, with him performing the song Electric Dreams, the title track to the criminally underrated 80s cyber rom-com. It’s really the best, not to mention the most appropriate ending Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break could have. And I won’t deny I was singing along with Paul during it.
Nick Gillespie has seriously upped his game with Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. Even if it occasionally spreads itself too thin, it’s a delightfully funny observation of society. One that deserves a wider audience than it will probably get.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break will screen on Monday, November 22nd as part of this year’s Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, you can check their website for showtime and ticket information. Alarm Pictures plans to release it sometime in Spring 2022 in the US and UK.