[SXSW 2021] PAUL DOOD'S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK -- A Zany Dark Comedy with a Great Central Performance
Review by Sean Boelman
The SXSW Film Festival is known for showcasing some very out there films, even beyond its Midnighters category, and the dark comedy Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is one of the wackiest movies that was in this year’s lineup. And even though it does take some time to pick up its steam, this offbeat romp is the type of film that seems destined for cult classic status.
The movie follows a lonely man living with his mom who, after failing spectacularly on an audition for his favorite talent show, sets out on a deadly path of revenge against the people who caused him to embarrass himself. It’s a dumb plot, but it sets up some scenarios that are absolute comedic gold.
Admittedly, the film does have a bit of a problematic message. This is clearly meant to be a spin on the revenge thriller, and it’s effective as such, but it is also disappointingly mean-spirited. Ultimately, the message is to be kind to one another, but apparently it takes showing a whole lot of rudeness to get that moral across.
Paul Dood is an absolutely charming lovable goof. Yes, he has a lot of eccentricities that can be a bit much at times, but the unabashed zaniness of the protagonist is honestly what makes the movie work so well. Tom Meeten’s lead performance is wholly committed and surprisingly lived-in, almost as if he was taking a character he had already worked with and expanding it.
The supporting characters in the film aren’t quite as well-written. Everyone except for Paul is a total archetype, with very few distinguishing characteristics. There’s the supportive mother, the jerk co-worker who tries to make the protagonist’s life a living hell, and the arrogant television show personality.
On one hand, it is a little frustrating that it takes about thirty minutes for the movie to get to the eponymous catastrophe, but once it does, it moves along quite well. And the necessity of the first act is obvious, as it provides a needed foundation in characterization, even if there probably was a better way to do the same thing.
There are some really interesting things going on in the film’s execution. The costuming choices for the protagonist are inspired and create an excellent visual gag. Additionally, the use of practical effects during the spree in the second half is really impressive, with some strong and funny visuals.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is an entertaining movie, and while it isn’t as deep as it seems to think it is, it’s more than diverting enough to work. Viewers will be left wanting to see more of Paul Dood, which is a good thing.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break screened as a part of the online edition of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, which ran March 16-20.
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