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25th September 2020

A Charming Debut That Doesn’t Pay Off Completely

You can’t have enough of it: Love, friends and… money. No matter how much/little we have, there’s always ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ thought. However, when you’re a student, you might not think a lot about that money, not even when you need to party, buying clothes, or getting to the bars. No, then you’re just like Davie. Drinks before money and having fun before saving. You would do anything to gain more money, and even more so when it’s to impress someone.

What do you do? Work, lend it, or ask for it? Could be any of those, but according to first-time writer-director Dave Mclean, you can combine them with pulling off a scheme. When trying to set up a scheme, it can either be very successful or not. Well, “Schemers” can be found right in between that because of on the one hand there’s the lack of emotional depth, but on the other, there’s the wonderful indie touch.

“Schemers” is a semi-autobiographical movie about McLean and about how he rolled into the music promotion business in Dundee. After ending up in the hospital due to a bad tackle on the football field, Davie (Conor Berry) falls in love with his beautiful nurse. Under his hospital sedatives’ influence, he wants to impress her by taking her to the disco he organizes. Little did he know that she was going for it because sadly there was no disco at all. With the help of his best friends, friends Scot (Sean Connor) and John (Grant Robert Keenan), he miraculously gets this disco off the ground and the rest, well, that’s rock and roll history.

Taking place in Scotland, it came as no surprise that “Schemers” had its world premiere during the Edinburgh Film Festival last year, where it won the Audience Award. While this award was incredibly well-deserve, the movie could have taken home more awards if the story and the execution were just a bit more balanced out.

What holds this movie together is, without a doubt, the fascinating and exciting performance by Berry, an actor you should keep an eye on. Thanks to Berry’s wonderful acting, we can feel Davie’s cleverness, inventiveness, and determination to get both the girl and the money. While there’s nothing wrong with his co-stars’ performances, as the acting is still enjoyable to watch, this is where the predictability sets in. Especially when it comes to Lee (“Songbird,” “Dark Justice”) her performance as Davie’s newfound love. She’s very capable of charming the audience with her wittiness, but sadly, she doesn’t get to show her full potential because of the stereotypical character. Shona is nothing more than just the girl Davie wants, and because of that, she doesn’t get a storyline or background of her own.

Yes, the characters might be a bit underused and uncompleted, but that’s also what gives this move the warmth, the charm, and the indie vibe it needs. Also, when it comes to represents Dundee from the ’70 and ’80, “Schemers” excels. The rebellious teenager’s foolhardiness, the limited opportunities they get, and the nonchalant way of life are brought to the screen wonderfully. There’s also the very upbeat soundtracks with songs from The Proclaimers, Tears For Fears, The Associates, Hawkwind, and yeah, that ‘small upcoming’ band U2 is also making their musical appearance.

From organizing a small disco for few people to managing Placebo. Yes, saying that Mclean’s life as a music promoter took off would be an understatement. You always have to start somewhere, and that’s not different in the movie industry. While this movie feels a bit predictable and lacks some emotional depth, “Schemers” certainly is a charming debut.

His football career over, Davie starts promoting gigs in Dundee with two friends, leading to a hugely ambitious Iron Maiden show. Out of his depth and in debt with gangster Fergie, Davie needs to pull off the biggest scheme of his life.

25th September 2020

Dave Mclean

Dave Mclean, Khaled Spiewak, Kyle Titterton

Running Time:
1hr 31mins

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