A film that’s as uplifting and positive as it is dark and shockingly violent (at times), Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a quintessentially British black comedy that roots for the underdog, even when he perhaps doesn’t deserve it.
The titular Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) is a bit of a pathetic character, but one who’s harmless enough (at least initially) that he proves easy to identify with. Overlooked at his charity-shop job, and not exactly racking up many social media followers, Paul thinks his one chance at making something of himself is through winning a national talent competition.
With an appropriately sparkly tracksuit, “winning” dance routine, and fan-girl mother (June Watson) in tow, Paul can’t possibly think of a reason he won’t advance through the competition, so, naturally, the world has other plans for him to test his resilience and highlight just how talented and creative he truly is.
Given the film’s title it only makes sense that it eventually adopts a rather sinister tone, but, in true British fashion, it maintains its sense of humour as we witness such horrific acts as a train inspector impaling their face on a concrete structure and two priests be literally steamrolled to death; this last sequence one of Deadly Lunch Break‘s most graphic.
How does one get to such horrific acts though? Well, Paul’s road to hopeful fame is thwarted at every possible moment, leading him to miss his audition and send him on a spiral where he uncovers a confidence and a rage within him, no longer settling to being under the thumb of others. Naturally, when two priests take your cab you plot their deaths, so by the time each personified interruption get their comeuppance we are wholly on Paul’s deranged side.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break certainly isn’t condoning such violent acts though – and the way each moment plays out are actually far funnier than they intend to be – but director Nick Gillespie imbues heart and reason into the character, whilst also commenting on how social media has blurred the lines of fact and fiction and how we’ll twist the truth to fit our own narrative.
Whilst the film isn’t always consistently laugh-out-loud hilarious, there are enough nuggets of genuine wit peppered throughout the bold shock that keep it alarmingly watchable. Sad, droll, and wince-inducing, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is suitable escapism that finds the jocularity within the bleak nature of humanity.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is screening as part of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, which is being presented virtually between March 16th and 20th, 2021. For more information head to the official SXSW website.