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This account of the rise of Dundee music promoter Dave Mclean, later to become the UK’s tireless ambassador for grunge, is directed by Dave Mclean, produced by Dave Mclean and co-written by Dave Mclean; at least the film doesn’t shy away from the chutzpah of the vanity project. As his younger self progresses from on-the-fly student discos to a dicey triumph via sweet-talking Iron Maiden to play Dundee’s Caird Hall in June 1980, Mclean ramps up this account of Tayside wheeler-dealing with abundant freeze-frames and a street-sprint intro that leave no doubt which modern Scottish classic it is emulating.
“Davie” (played with smiling self-assurance by Conor Berry) is helped on his way by small-time dealer Scot (Sean Connor) and homebody DJ John (Grant Robert Keelan). Their badinage flows naturally from a script with a wry enjoyment of local idiosyncrasies (like the chip-shop scene in which Davie measures out the mileage from London to Dundee using a battered sausage as a ruler) that doesn’t skimp on entertainment in the early stages.
The lack of objectivity is finally fatal though. As Davie makes underworld alliances with local kingpin Fergie to further his ambitions, it never feels like Mclean fully fleshes out the consequences, or is prepared to examine the roots of his gambler’s compulsion. Trying to keep in the running with Trainspotting just shows up Schemers’ inferior emotional range. Not possessing Danny Boyle’s expert snap and rhythm is not a crime for a debut film-maker, but Mclean just isn’t invested in characters beyond how they service his own story. The hagiographic fumes finally induce an annoying mania in most of the performances, as the film, like his schemes, threatens to collapse in the Iron Maiden stretch. The character postscripts – including Scot’s mysterious death in 2014 following shady Russian property deals – hint at more testing material that might get more out of Mclean.
• Schemers is in cinemas from 25 September.
Source: The Guardian
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