What do you know about revenge?
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break made its world premiere at SXSW Online 2021 in the Narrative Spotlight category. This dark comedy, which is directed by Nick Gillespie and co-written by Gillespie, Brook Driver, and Matt White, follows the story of a weedy charity-shop worker named Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) who has his heart set on winning a national talent competition. However, things go awry when five selfish people set his day on a course for disaster, which sparks a deadly revenge mission.
Ever have one of those days where the whole universe seems to be against you? That’s Paul Dood as he finds himself desperately stumbling through the afternoon from Hell when he realizes that he unfortunately mixed up the date for the Trend Ladder Talent Show that he’s been studiously preparing for. The film starts off charming and quirky, as we’re introduced to Paul and his mother Julie, a lovely character portrayed by June Watson. Julie’s unwavering support and enthusiasm for her son is something we all need in our lives. Their joint efforts to push through and make it to their destination — despite the obstacles in their way — feel inspiring in a way.
The film’s first act eases viewers into a false sense of security (This is a dark comedy, after all) as we collectively root for Paul’s quirky self in all of his sequined glory, alongside his spry mother. However, the arrival of actor Kevin Bishop’s marvelously terrible love-to-hate Jack Tapp is the final nail in the coffin for any hope of redemption that Paul’s day may have had. What follows is a delightfully fun and twisted narrative, in which Paul finds himself ungracefully waltzing down a bloody path of revenge. Paul Dood is no John Wick though, and his deadly mission of vengeance plays out in a wildly entertaining (and also quite gross) series of ridiculous, unfortunate accidents.
Though Meeten easily guides the film with the bizarre magnetism of Paul’s personality, the casting department left no stone unturned, because the film was littered with a lovely assortment of supporting characters throughout. Some particular standouts were Katherine Parkinson’s Clemmie, who serves as the perfect extension of unwavering support in Paul in the absence of Julie, and Mandeep Dhillon’s Jane Miles, who is an absolute delight as she finds herself further invested and involved in the events that unfold. There’s also Chris Willoughby, who plays an excellent polar opposite to Jack Tapper’s obnoxious self as his long-suffering assistant Gary. Even the background characters, like the women in the park and the construction workers, each brought their own brilliant comedic quips to the table.
Overall, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a chock full of darkly brilliant absurdity and grounded with heart. The script is impressive, carrying the film seamlessly from wholesome to gruesome with timely, snappy jokes to serve as stepping stones in between, all to the tune of a catchy soundtrack. There’s also an underlying commentary about social media, the attachment we form to validation in the form of numbers and engagement, and way that the chase to the top can bring out the various sides in a human being. It’s a timely observation during a time where many of us are glued to our phones day in and day out.
Honestly, there was truly no better way to tie it all off than with the film’s confetti-filled ending, an iconic scene that perfectly culminated a wonderfully chaotic journey. Paul Dood is our imperfectly perfect underdog hero of this story.
And admit it … you, too, were chanting “Paul Dood” before the credits began to roll.