★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
All Paul Dood wants to do is be the next big star on a weekly talent show, but the ill will of people who Paul holds responsible for failing his audition will be their downfall as Paul plots gruesome revenge in this U.K. dark comedy.
Directed by Nick Gillespie
A mild-mannered, put-upon man just wants to catch the big break he knows he can get, but is thwarted by a series of misadventures and then sets his sights on bloody revenge in director Nick Gillespie’s dark comedy Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. This U.K. film features a winning performance from Tom Meeten as the lead character, a terrific supporting cast, and an oddball charm that heads into dark places.
Paul Dood (Meeten) works at a charity shop with caustic, bullying coworker Simon (Lloyd Griffith) and would-be therapist Jayney (Pippy Haywood). When he suddenly realizes that his date with destiny in the form of an audition for a TV talent show is today and not a week later as he had originally though, Paul hurriedly picks up his ailing, loving mother Julie (June Watson) and sets off to show his singing and dancing skills to show host Jack Tapp (Kevin Bishop). A series of Herculean trails await mother and son, however, including being mistreated by a manipulative train station attendant (Steve Oram) and a pretentious owner of an Asian-style tea room (Johnny Vegas). When Paul fails the audition unceremoniously and then another heartbreaking incident occurs, he can think only of bloody revenge.
Some of the film’s darker humor lies in how Paul plots the deaths of those who wronged him and what actually takes place. Earlier on, though, Gillespie — who cowrote the screenplay with Brook Driver and Matthew White — allows viewers to get to know the sweet relationship between Paul and Julie and gives each comedic set piece with those who thwart the duo’s efforts to get to auditions time to breathe so that viewers, much like Paul’s double-digits social media followers, have reason to get behind our antihero.
Meeten is superb as Paul Dood, an everyman who just wants to live out his dream of entertaining and to buy his elderly mother a new bungalow with the riches that will surely follow. The sizeable supporting cast, which also includes Alice Lowe as an ill-mannered clergywoman, all give fine turns, as well.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is horror adjacent, and features some well-rendered gore gags to go along with its body count. Genre-film fans and dark comedy aficionados should find plenty to enjoy with this amusing offering.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break screened as part of SXSW Online 2021, which ran from March 16–20, 2021.