THE STORY - 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 one lunch break, five spectacular murders.
THE CAST - Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas & Craig Parkinson
THE TEAM - Nick Gillespie (Director/Writer), Brooks Driver & Matthew White (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME - 95 Minutes
THE GOOD - The script is packed with hilarious banter and sight gags, most of which are aided by Tom Meeten's nimble lead performance.
THE BAD - The film suffers from an inconsistent tone and a general uncertainty as to what it's going for in a given scene.
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None
THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10
read the FULL REVIEW
By Danilo Castro
Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) wants to be a star. The only problem is he doesn't have much talent. "Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break," asks what happens when you take a naive, aspirational person such as this and squash their dreams in front of them. The answer seemingly involves lots of violence and unsettling comedy.
Paul discovers he's mistaken his talent show audition by a week and frantically travels across town with his mother to make a case for stardom. He encounters one difficulty after another, and while he eventually makes it to the show, it's all for naught. The judge mocks him to his face, and his ailing mother dies due to the strain. The traumatized Paul decides to get revenge on those who wronged him during a single deadly lunch break. Oh, and did I mention he's live streaming it all?
The first thirty minutes serve as a microcosm for the film as a whole. There are stretches of absolute hilarity as Paul bounds across town, but they're broken up with characters and situational humor that feels out of sorts with the rest of the material. Paul's sojourn to a Japanese restaurant owned by an Englishman is a particular sore point, as the Englishman feels plucked out of an unfunny comedy from twenty years ago. There are problematic elements that can be read into the character (the stereotypically Asian bowl cut is a bit cringe-inducing). Still, beyond that, he's simply written poorly, and anytime he enters the frame, the story comes to a screeching halt.
Tonally, "Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break" comes off a bit muddled. The scene where Paul discovers his mom's body is treated seriously but the minutes that follow are so ridiculously angsty (screaming in a bathtub, standing over her grave in the rain) that they border on parody. I'd be inclined to think these exaggerations were done on purpose, but given that the death is meant to drive the rest of Paul's character arc, I find the approach to be contradictory to the intention. The tender flashbacks between Paul and his mom further this emotional whiplash.
If you can overlook these inconsistencies, you'll find that co-writer/director Nick Gillespie has a keen eye for black comedy. Paul's audition is met with an outpouring of insults from the pompous celebrity judge, while the contemptuous banter between the judge and his agent will have you double-checking to see if Edgar Wright was a co-writer. The Wright influence becomes even more evident when Paul starts clumsily dispatching the people on his hit list.
There are some unexpectedly gory images sprinkled throughout "Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break," and much of the humor derives from the fact that Paul seems as disgusted as the viewer. Tom Meehan gives a wonderfully nimble performance as the titular character, and he convincingly sells the hapless, starry-eyed aspect of Paul as well as he does the dejected, raging loner. A character as broad as Paul could have easily succumbed to one-dimensionality or unlikability, but Meehan makes even the most absurd choices seem relatable.
The film's climax tries to have its cake and eat it too by making Paul out to be some sort of martyr for the "little guy." This might have worked had the tone been more consistent, but as it stands, the ending feels at odds with the blunt violence and broad comedy that preceded it. I wish the writers had done more with the social media element of the story, given that some of the more interesting character moments involve Paul talking to his "fans" on a live stream. It feels like a missed opportunity.
"Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break" is a memorable but ultimately flawed film. There's raw talent present in the dialogue, the acting, and the staging, so those who are on the fence about seeing should still give it a try. I'm personally looking forward to what director Nick Gillespie does next. If he continues to hone his craft, he may have a great film or two up his sleeve.