Schemers – Raindance Film Festival 2019 – Film Review

Adrenalin fuelled from the outset with a high-speed chase by foot, Schemers takes us on a high-octane journey through the eyes of Davie and his friends. Based on a true story or allegedly so as the opening credits reference, Davie aspires to be a concert promoter, after an accident results in the curtailment of his footballer dreams.

Davie running through the streets in Schemers
Davie running through the streets in Schemers

The path to success is not quite so easy for Davie and his friends as their initial success, with local discos, attracts the attention of the organised gangs that profiteer from local businesses demanding protection money. What follows is an hilarious adventure with trials and tribulations in the world of Davie as they become embroiled with the local villains.

Inspired by the life of band promoter David Mclean, who is the writer and director, the ‘schemers’ in the title are the residents of an estate called ‘schemes’ in Dundee. There are obvious similarities to Trainspotting with plenty of highs, lows and slapstick antics. Davie’s love interest Shona, whom he follows to university, and one of his married friends seem to provide the only voices of reason to the lofty ambitions of Davie, which quite often result in hare-brained schemes. It is unfortunate, however, that the role of Shona is underdeveloped.

Set in 1979, the storyline is supported by some very effective and sharp editing! There is a voiceover providing details of Davie’s inner monologue and the tracking shots mean that we are sometimes privy to the visualisation of Davie’s thoughts prior to them being articulated! The accompanying soundtrack also sets the tone as it represents that 1980s era with punk and rock music.

The stakes are high in Davie’s world as he initially attempts to secure Simply Minds and bigger bands subsequently meaning that he has to find more creative ways of securing the booking of the relevant bands. His gambling compulsions however take over when he becomes more confident in the role but is still very inexperienced as far as organising the bigger events that he aspires to, which is obvious to all.

A hilarious scene unfolds where Davie is asked whether he wishes to promote a band of four men from Dublin but he is unaware of their up and coming status and so I will leave you to guess which band that might have been! However, when Davie aspires to obtain a booking with Iron Maiden there is a true test to his friendships with a degree of luck required for the seemingly impossible task of raising the high sums of money required!

The manic life of Davie is quite nicely intercut with various wide angle shots of serene, coastal scenes as they visit such areas voluntarily or else due to intimidation. Such location is so mesmerising that in the initial scenes it inspires the name for Davie’s music promotion company. It is a beautifully shot sunset scene and the cinematography is superb.

Sunset shot at coast in Schemers
Sunset shot at coast in Schemers

The kinetic pace of the film will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat. As we delve more into the world of Davie, there are moments where his actions seem deplorable and the direction of the film in those moments does well to maintain the balance of tone. This is also assisted by the tremendous performance by Conor Berry as Davie in a very impressive acting debut and I would certainly be keen to watch more of his progression as an actor.

This is director David McLean’s first feature film and whilst its content may not be substantial, it is an extremely enjoyable watch. If you are a Trainspotting fan then this film is likely to appeal to you and is just the perfect type of film to watch on a Friday night with friends.

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