Roughly hewn drama comedy Schemers trades heavily on 1980s nostalgia and a vibrant soundtrack
SCHEMERS (15, 91 mins) Drama/Comedy/Romance. Conor Berry, Sean Connor, Grant R Keelan, Tara Lee, Alastair Thomson Mills, Blair Robertson, Mingus Johnston, David Izatt. Director: Dave McLean.
FORTUNE occasionally favours the reckless in Schemers, a roughly hewn drama comedy based on the true story of how Dundee-born concert promoter Dave McLean cut his teeth before he moved to London and became manager of rock band Placebo.
McLean could have entrusted his blast from the past to safe film-making hands. Instead, he boldly chooses to direct his own story, drawing heavily on the visual lexicon of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting in an exuberant opening salvo that introduces us to his younger self: "a degenerate gambler with delusions of grandeur" played with cocksure swagger by Conor Berry.
After a promising start, Schemers loses its way and a faltering script co-written by McLean, Khaled Spiewak and Kyle Titterton fails to endear Davie to us as he becomes embroiled with the Dundee McMafia and mistreats his two-dimensional girlfriend.
By the time the lead character is threatened with broken limbs or perhaps a one-way trip to the bottom of the River Tay, any drops of sympathy have evaporated, undermining the impact of a frenetic final act which famously brings heavy metal maestros Iron Maiden to Caird Hall in June 1980.
Davie (Berry) harbours fanciful dreams of playing for Dundee United Football Club but his flirtation with the beautiful game is cut short when he scores off the field. During a drunken night out, Davie succumbs to the charms of a girl who is "the spitting image of the blonde bird from ABBA". When her brutish fiance (David Izatt) discovers the alcohol-fuelled fumble, he breaks one of Davie's legs.
Hobbling around town on crutches, Davie spots an opportunity to make money by organising a university disco. He joins forces with drug dealer Scot (Sean Connor) and DJ John (Grant R Keelan) to stage the event and, hopefully, impress sassy student nurse Shona (Tara Lee).
The dance is a roaring success and Davie excitedly expands his horizons – "proper bands, bigger crowds, more money" – to book Simple Minds for the princely sum of £15 and six cans of lager under the banner of Twa Bridges Promotions.
Consequently, Davie, Scot and John become entangled with Fergie (Alastair Thomson Mills), who controls the city's largest music venues and protects his assets with the help of his nephew Pike (Blair Robertson) and lieutenant Kenny (Mingus Johnston).
Punctuated by archive footage from the era including Pope John Paul II's visit to Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Schemers trades heavily on 1980s nostalgia with a vibrant soundtrack and solid production design.
The film's limited budget is evident in concert sequences, which wouldn't matter if the script had a firmer grip on compelling characterisation and plot.
Aside from Davie, protagonists are hastily sketched backing singers, whose contributions merely propel the heedless hero along his haphazard path to glory.
:: Released September 25