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SXSW 2021 Review - PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK

Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break review
A charity-shop worker misses his chance to participate in a national talent competition and seeks revenge on those who bullied him along the way.

Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: Nick Gillespie

Starring: Tom Meeten, Kris Marshall, Johnny Vegas, Kevin Bishop, Steve Oram, Alice Lowe

Paul Dood's journey to self-fulfilment will involve him doing anything for clout - he just doesn't know it yet because he’s never had a taste of clout. The 40-something charity shop worker slash aspiring entertainer, marvellously played by British comic multi-hyphenate Tom Meeten, wants his enthusiasm to sing, dance and dress with glitzy glamour to mean something. There is no greater impetus for his showbiz pursuits than his ill mother, who is nearing the end of her life with an unspecified timeline.

Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break review

And there’s no greater materialistic desire for a child than to give back to their parents with a nice car or a nice house. For Paul, buying a bungalow for his mum is the endgame. His confidence in winning Britain’s Got Talent will help him realise this goal, only it’s a struggle to even get there thanks to a few selfish people who get in the way. He’s super late to meet the talent show’s fictional equivalent of Simon Cowell - comedian Kevin Bishop playing an archetypal American socialite with his L.A. tan and perfectly coiffed hair – and his impromptu audition behind closed doors is laughed off by the host right as his mother suddenly passes away. Thus, he begins a quest for revenge.


The vengeance doesn’t begin until the midway mark of this 90-minute movie, though. The first half is leisurely paced, putting the Dood family through a series of unpleasant encounters with various characters performed by a who’s who of British comedy talent: Johnny Vegas as a pathetic waiter in a Chinese restaurant, Alice Lowe as a slimy clergywoman, Steve Oram as a brutish train attendant, all soon to be targets of Dood’s bloodthirst after they slow down his path to reaching the national talent show. Under the guidance of a very generous director, the actors rinse the scenes out of any possible humour to be found but ultimately, these sequences feel a little too long.



Throughout the whole film, the main character live-streams himself to a two-digit audience on a facsimile of Instagram, empowered by the fans who tune in and believe his murders are nothing but compelling performance art. There’s a point to be made here but unfortunately the presentation is too artificial. It feels like a missed opportunity knowing that films (such as Ingrid Goes West, Unfriended, Spree) have reached the point of acutely understanding how to utilise social media as a tool of storytelling, particularly through accurate design.


The ineffectiveness here comes from a failure to take advantage of the aesthetic possibilities: the fake social network, designed around a ladder system, looks and sounds more like a cheap mobile game than a pretend IG, which it tries to be in every other way. I’m not saying it’s a generational misplacement of technology but the soundtrack, featuring new wavers Gary Numan, Bronski Beat and A Flock of Seagulls, is indicative of a filmmaking team who were kids before the internet and are now grown up and making movies. It’s perhaps low on their list of cinematic priorities but it hurts the immersion.

Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break review

Paul visualises his killing spree in an appealingly violent way and the film proceeds by twisting the scenarios and mining them even further for gleefully gory results. There’s terrific work done by the props department and some of their secrets are shown in the credits when we see bloopers. Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break does its job as a satisfying midnight movie, but it surprises in wielding power as a feel-good flick.

Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break plays online at the SXSW Film Festival from March 17th to 21st.

2021 movie reviews