Rating: 3 out of 5.

New SXSW comedy Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break evokes a familiar mood that fans of British humor will enjoy immensely. It’s a demented blend of Hot Fuzz and Spree that somehow paints the lead character simultaneously as both unhinged psycho and affectionate softie. Paul himself is majorly weird, with an innate charm that sadly goes overlooked by most of the people in his life. Director Nick Gillespie has a grasp on comedic timing and scene setting that reminded me of director Edgar Wright. I kept rooting for the crazy dial to go up to 11, but it mainly stays at a steady 6 or 7 throughout.

Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) works at a charity-shop, yearning to break free and make it big. The opportunity of a lifetime soon presents itself right before his eyes: a national talent competition hosted by superstar Jack Tapp (Kevin Bishop). Paul—who shows up hours late—completely bombs the audition. After the tragic death of his mother sends him over the edge, Paul sets out for revenge on everyone who contributed to the lateness that resulted in his botched audition.

This is a very funny, clever film. There’s a weird vibe to the humor that landed well with me. Two little old ladies show up in a park that steal the show and are thankfully utilized more than once. Paul pretends to be a flasher, accidentally kills people, live streams his every move for some reason, and has outrageous flashes of fantasies he can never fulfill. The specificity of each death keeps the story from growing stale. Featuring more kills could have pushed Paul Dood even further over-the-top. It’s missing something from the finale to nudge it over from ‘good’ to ‘great.’ The whole film is a big build, but the sequence they were actually building to all along is slightly underwhelming. Something was holding this back from going full-tilt bonkers, and I would’ve loved it even more if it stuck the landing. I had a good time with this silly, ridiculous little slice of fun. Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break was a selection for 2021’s SXSW Film Festival.

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