Fantasia 2021 – Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break

By Naomi Roper

Tonal inconsistencies mar an otherwise spirited revenge caper.

Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) is an aspiring performer working in a charity shop with colleagues who don’t respect him. Aided by his supportive mother (June Watson) Paul’s dream is to audition for Jake Tapp (Kevin Bishop) at the local heats of a talent contest put on by Trend Ladder (aka You Tube). However, Paul is the type of guy who forgets important dates and when the time to audition rolls around Paul finds himself in a scramble to get there. His chances of auditioning are ruined by the actions of five terrible people. A train conductor (Steve Oram) fails to help him, a tea shop owner (Jonny Vegas) is unkind to him, a priest and a nun (Kris Marshall and Alice Lowe) steal his taxi and when he does get to the audition, well let’s just say it doesn’t go well. But Paul is fed up with taking these things laying down. Fuelled by rage and grief he heads off on a deadly lunch break. A live-streamed rampage of revenge. Will Paul get his revenge and will he get the fame he’s hoping for?

I really wanted to love this, it’s a British horror packed to the gills with British talent and I try and champion homegrown horror whenever I get the chance.  However, tonal inconsistencies mar an otherwise spirited revenge caper. Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunchbreak is a very British tragi-comedy that can at times be a challenge to watch. The lengthy set-up featuring everyone ruining Paul’s chances of auditioning isn’t actually a ton of fun to watch. Paul and his mother are slightly pathetic figures and watching all these awful, awful people be unkind to them is painful to watch. At the end of that sequence, I just felt really quite sad. When Paul embarks upon his revenge quest matters pick up considerably but the lingering undertone of sadness remains.

When Paul decides to fight back the movie does a 180 and director Nick Gillespie kicks things into high gear with the movie switching to become a slapstick dark comedy featuring some creative death scenes. One genre fave and frankly national treasure gets a spectacularly gruesome death scene which made me wince. Gillespie taps into the British public’s tendency to champion the underdog as Paul and his deadly antics become a cause celebre.

Tom Meeten is wonderful as Paul Dood. It’s not an easy role to play. Paul is downtrodden, grieving and suffering a massive mental health crisis. Meeten gives such an open, warm-hearted, enthusiastic performance that you find yourself rooting for Paul even though part of you just honestly wants him to go home, have a nice cup of tea and find a good therapist. Elsewhere Katharine Parkinson nails the hell out of a small role as Clemmie the shy cleaner who has a thing for Paul. Alice Lowe and Kris Marshall revel in being appallingly venal and seem like they’re having a jolly good time. A special shout out goes to Mandeep Dhillon who steals the show as the no-nonsense police special constable who ends up saving the day. Plus I wanted to give the woman doing the road renovations her own movie.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunchbreak is not the laugh riot I was expecting but it does have a LOT of heart. If you like your dark comedy peppered with a hefty dose of tragedy it’s worth checking out if only for the incredibly strong acting throughout.

3 out of 5 stars

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is playing on-demand at the Fantasia International Film Festival and tickets are available now.