“Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break” is a great concept that could’ve been so much more. Billed as a comedy, it takes deserved digs at religion, authority figures, and society’s obsession with online celebrity culture, but there’s something so sad at the heart of its lead character that it plays as more disturbing than laugh-out-loud funny.
Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) is an average guy with a dream. He lives with his ailing mum (June Watson) in a small flat, where they spend their days eating tea cakes and preparing for Paul’s chance to make it big with an audition for a popular national talent competition show called Trend Ladder. They’ve sewn matching sequined costumes for the occasion, and everything is falling into place. Except for one big problem: Paul wrote down the wrong date for his audition, and it’s today. Scrambling to get to the studio in time, the two encounter a series of unfortunate mishaps (including a jerk of a security officer, a racist tea shop owner, and a scumbag priest) that may just sink his dreams of stardom.
It’s a revenge movie with a slow setup, but things really get cooking once Paul decides to take it upon himself to dole out appropriate vengeance on his lunch break. He’s just a normal guy with a dream who is pushed too far, and he’s finally had enough. One by one, Paul pays a visit to the people whom he thinks had a hand in making him miss his audition, live streaming everything along the way. This makes him obsessed with the numbers of viewers he can get as he climbs the Trend Ladder online platform. Soon, Paul begins to love, crave, and feed off the anonymous validation.
Co-writers Nick Gillespie (who also directed), Brook Driver, and Matthew White have crafted an original revenge story that’s filled with creative scenarios, but it’s far from funny. There are a few laughs to be found, but those expecting a traditional comedy will be disappointed because the film mostly decides to play it straight. There’s nothing wrong about taking this approach, but I feel that touting this as a comedy will prove misleading to many.
“Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break” is a story of murder and retribution told with timely themes. Thoughtful viewers will find a lot to unpack, including a deeper critique of our infatuation with likes, clicks, and the overwhelming desire to live in the moment through social media.
By: Louisa Moore