Deadly Lunch Break might not have the X-Factor but it doesn’t deserve to be on your reject list
The character of Paul Dood will be very familiar to you if you have seen The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, or any number of other televised talent shows. This isn’t to say you have actually seen Paul Dood perform live on TV. But you will have seen thousands of hopefuls like him, each one pursuing their showbiz dreams in front of a panel of scathing and overly-critical judges.
In this film, which recently premiered on Sky Cinema/Now TV, Paul Dood, played by British comic Tom Meeten, is a middle-aged charity shop volunteer who wants to pursue his showbiz dreams on a national talent show fronted by the egotistical Jack Tapp (Kevin Bishop).
His goal isn’t necessarily fame and fortune, however. By winning the talent show, he will earn enough money to buy a bungalow for his elderly mother, so he has far more altruistic motives than those who only want to win for materialistic gain.
Sadly, as is the case with many of the amateur performers we see on our TV screens, Paul isn’t very good. His outfit might be bright and sparkly but his song and dance act, based around the title track from Electric Dreams, is a bit of a mess. As such, it’s clear he doesn’t stand much of a chance of success when performing on stage. However, getting to the stage is Paul’s biggest hurdle.
On his way to the audition with his wheelchair-bound mum, Paul is delayed numerous times on his journey. A bureaucratic railway manager (Steve Oram) makes Paul miss the train twice. A clergyman (Kris Marshall) and his nasty female companion (Alice Lowe) thwart Paul’s attempts to get into a taxi. And a Japanese restaurant owner (Johnny Vegas) does much to slow Paul down when he refuses to give him a glass of water for his mum.
As a consequence of these delays, Paul is late for his audition. When he arrives, everybody but Jack Tapp and his assistant have gone home. At first, Jack is dismissive of Paul when he asks to be given a chance. But when he finds out Paul is live streaming via a phone hung around his neck, he turns on the charm and lets him do his act.
As expected, Paul does not do well and Jack lets him know this, in true Simon Cowell fashion. Unfortunately, Paul’s misfortune does not end there, as his mum sadly dies while watching him perform.
What happens next is a little unbelievable but as an audience member, you might find it rather cathartic. Paul, traumatised by the day he has just had, decides to take revenge on the people who sabotaged his dreams of winning the talent show. As he embarks on a violent rampage, his mission of vengeance is live-streamed to an ever-increasing audience.
As a film, this is never likely to win any major awards. However, it is an enjoyable watch, especially during the final third when Paul goes on his killing spree. While his behaviour cannot be condoned, the temptation is there to cheer Paul on as he goes after the people who destroyed his dreams. This is partly because we can relate to his plight. Many of us have had our dreams shattered by those who have gotten in our way, be they talent show judges or bullying work colleagues who have stepped on us in an effort to climb the corporate ladder. Of course, not many of us would bump off such bullies but we might fantasise about doing so!
On the surface, this is a revenge film. While Paul isn’t exactly successful when carrying out his mission, he still brings to mind Charles Bronson in Death Wish or Michael Caine in Get Carter.
But beneath the obvious, the film is a satirical commentary on social media obsession and the way that many of us try to get approval by live-streaming our thoughts and broadcasting our every move.
It’s a little like the 2021 film Spree, which is about a rideshare driver who tries to gain online followers by murdering his unlucky passengers, and the 2017 film Ingrid Goes West, about a young woman who believes her Instagram friends truly like her. Paul Dood is a far more sympathetic character than the protagonists in those films, however, and as such, might be more relatable to you.
The film also touches upon the cruelty of TV talent show contests and how lives are damaged by the words of people with gigantic egos. Recently, there was a lot of furore about Jeremy Kyle and the way he bullied guests on his show.
Attention should also be turned to the type of programmes that take delight in parading deluded hopefuls on screen for the sake of entertainment, such as The X-Factor where contestants are slated for being the “worst performers ever” by mocking judges and laughing audience members.
I don’t think Paul Dood is for everyone. The violence, while played out in a comedic fashion, is still rather sick, so this isn’t a film for the squeamish. But if you can stomach the brief moments of gore, there is enjoyment to be had here, mostly thanks to the talented cast of British actors that many of you will be familiar with.
The film might also give you time to reflect on your own behaviour. Do you need to post every detail of your life on Facebook? Should you ridicule unlucky TV contestants from the comfort of your sofa? These are questions only you can answer.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Time Break is a fun, if slightly uncomfortable watch, but it is worth a look if you get the chance. It’s funny, cathartic, and occasionally poignant. It might not have the X-Factor but it’s not a film that deserves to be on your reject list.
Verdict - 6.5/10