Fantasia Festival 2021: Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a violent, vengeful, feel-good comedy

Tom Meeten in Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break.
Tom Meeten in Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. Pic credit: The Film Collaborative

The world can be a selfish place. Lately, it seems like that selfishness has become more contagious than Covid-19 itself. Sometimes it takes a Dood to fix it. This is the idea behind Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break.

The movie directed by Nick Gillespie is making its Canadian premiere next week and contains a collision of genres, including comedy, thriller, action, and a splash of vengeance. Plus a spirited performance by the Dood himself, Tom Meeten.

But is the film worth watching at Fantasia Fest 2021? Here is our full review of Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break review

The film centers around Paul (Meeten), who has aspirations of winning a talent show on Trend Ladder. Think of it basically as American Idol on TikTok.

As the film begins, we are introduced to Paul’s daily life. He has an amazingly supportive mother Julie (June Watson), who makes costumes for his upcoming audition. He works a job at a charity shop in a mall where his boss picks on him all the time. And the mall custodian Clemmie (Katherine Parkinson) has an affectionate relationship with Paul.

The day comes for the huge talent show which is hosted by Jack Tapp (Kevin Bishop)– a character that has Brett Ratner sleaziness depicted all over him. And as Paul Dood and his wheelchair-bound elderly mother embark to the talent show, they both face a string of unforgivable characters that cause an unfortunate tragedy for both of them. Thus, leading Paul Dood down a vengeful path that does not go entirely as planned.

Admittingly, as a writer who is also a person of disability, the journey both he and his mother take towards the Trend Ladder auditions is a bit upsetting. Each person they encounter is cruel to his elderly and disabled mother. The film plays with these cruel scenarios as if these are heightened versions of selfish personalities. Sadly, coming from experience, these situations are far from fake.

This makes the last hour of the film extremely satisfying once he leaves for his deadly lunch break.

Tom Meeten as Paul Dood in Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break.
Tom Meeten as Paul Dood in Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. Pic credit: The Film Collaborative

Viewers should be aware this is not a straight vengeance movie. In fact, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a revenge thriller like Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is a slasher movie about two murderous rednecks.

The film plays with expectations as Paul tries to go out for blood but is met with unforeseen outcomes by each confrontation. The end result of each individual dispute is humorous and oftentimes disturbingly silly.

As stated, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break has an underlying message about the selfishness of society. It comments on the fakeness of people in power and the lack of empathy from those with authority throughout its goofball narrative.

A film that resembles the tone of Gillespie’s Lunch Break is Bobcat Goldthwait’s preachy bloodbath comedy God Bless America– where an older man and a teen go on a vicious killing spree against all the shallow Americans destroying society. Only here, Paul Dood is way more timid than the unlikely violent duo, Frank and Roxy.

But the commentary on the fakeness of reality competitions and the hatefulness of everyday people is very present as it was in God Bless America.

Paul Dood putting on a show from Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break.
Paul Dood putting on a show from Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. Pic credit: The Film Collaborative

What should be said about Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is that without Tom Meeten’s strange and unconventional leading man presence, this film probably would have fallen apart. There is an unlikely charm to his approach with Paul Dood that elevates the oddball mixture of tones.

That said, the film itself contains an issue that is not easily ignored. Although most of the culprits Paul and his mother come up against are selfish, there is a reverse viewpoint that can be true when looking at Paul Dood.

At the start, he is highly aware of the risk involved by continuing on this journey with his mother at the beginning, but he presses on for a chance at stardom. At any point, the writing could have given him a more flexible out for his character to share any blame, but Paul is not completely off the hook here.

Still, despite this, Paul Dood’s eccentric charm somehow makes this easy to gloss over while experiencing the film.

Should you watch Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break at Fantasia Fest 2021?

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a dark bloody comedy about a fame starved man that has no idea how to commit vengeful acts. It’s like as if Liam Neeson did not possess a particular set of skills and failed successfully anyway.

While there are some minor flaws with its central character that conflict with its themes of selfishness against those who are less fortunate, the film itself has a fun energy that is further elevated by Tom Meeten’s lovable performance. And for such a dark and violent comedy, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is oddly uplifting.

For an unconventional, violent, and surprisingly feel-good movie, it’s definitely worth a watch at Fantasia Fest 2021.

To read reviews from previous festivals check out our coverage from SXSW 2021, including reviews for Violet and Broadcast Signal Intrusion(which will also play at Fantasia).

Stay tuned for more coverage of great films from Fantasia Fest 2021 at Monsters & Critics.

Fantasia Fest 2021 audiences can buy tickets to stream Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break at the festival website and can stream the movie anytime between August 5- August 25.

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