SCHEMERS (2019) Reviews of indie-rock biopic

 

Schemers is a 2019 Scottish film written and directed by Dave McLean, based on his early life in Dundee, before becoming a rock manager.

Directed by Dave Mclean from a screenplay co-written with Kyle Titterton, and additional material by Khaled Spiewak, the Schemers Film production stars Conor Berry, Sean Connor, Grant Robert Keelan and Tara Lee. Produced by Virginia Lee and Dave Mclean.

Plot:

Davie (Conor Berry) is a dreamer from the council schemes of Dundee, who is constantly hustling for a few quid, then losing it on the horses. After a football injury, Davie falls for trainee nurse Shona (Tara Lee) and tries to impress her by running a disco.

Along with friends John and Scot, the trio starts promoting bands – culminating in a hugely ambitious Iron Maiden gig at the Caird Hall, Dundee. With ambition so grand they go deep in debt with Fergie, a gangster of legendary violence, Davie needs to use every trick to pull off the biggest scheme of his life…

Reviews:

” …aside from Berry’s terrific performance and Maclean’s natural passion for his story – the film hits very predictable beats, and the supporting characters are very recognisable types. They are certainly all played with passion, but that doesn’t stop them seeming puzzlingly rote for a film made by the man who was supposedly pals with their real life counterparts. As for love interest Shona (Tara Lee), her character is sadly sidelined and undeveloped.” Battle Royale with Cheese

“It is, at least, a story told with a sense of self-knowing humour and a good ear for post-punk tunes. But that doesn’t excuse McLean borrowing heavily from other, better filmmakers (Danny Boyle chief among them), being over-reliant on his largely unnecessary narration, and employing hoary editing tricks (freeze frame! Photo montage! Rewind!) to try and paper over cracks created by an inexperienced cast and an ultra-low budget.” Empire

“Without the added pressure of being based on a true story, the film tries its best to become a story of many genres and ultimately doesn’t quite fit the general mold of a music bio, crime, or comedy-drama. At the heart, there’s an interesting story but with budget constraints, needed script edits, the music element, which is the best part of the story, isn’t given enough time and space. It would have been great to see some of the bands playing rather than a montage.” Filmhounds

“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…” The Guardian

“At its best, it pulses in the vein of The Likely Lads, paying tribute to working-class youth culture. But mostly it’s a wannabe Trainspotting, evident in the hyper-stylised aesthetic entailing the sort of freeze frames, rewinds, montages, and wry narration that characterised Danny Boyle’s classic. Try as he might, Mclean can’t escape from Boyle’s shadow here.” The Movie Waffler

“Ambitious and out of reach, it would seem that the story exceeded the ability of the production here. The jokes never land, the drama feels forced and the editing is just weird. It’s a shame because I really wanted to enjoy this, but it comes across as a production that couldn’t match the story it was inspired by.” Ready Steady Cut!

“Kicking proceedings off with Hunter S Thompson’s quote about the savagery and venality of the music industry, McLean’s own writing is a bit more bloke-down-the-pub bluster as he articulates his onscreen cipher’s every thought with sub-Trainspotting voice-over and gussies up the film’s budget shortfalls with freeze-frames and rapid-fire edits. What he singularly fails to do is make an aesthetic virtue out of the DIY energy fuelling many of the bands of the period…” The Scotsman

“The positive thing about Schemers, a vanity project directed by the Scottish former rock promoter David McLean concerning his own mis-spent youth in Dundee, is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously […] The soundtrack helps, and there are edits straight from the Trainspotting playbook, but promises of a modern-day Gregory’s Girl come aground on the rocks of the writer-director’s sky-high estimation of its hero – or, himself.” Screen Daily

Release:

Schemers was released theatrically in the UK and Ireland on 25th September 2020.

The film will be available on DVD and Digital Download via Lightbulb Film Distribution on Burns Night, 25th January 2021.

Cast and characters:

Conor Berry … Davie
Sean Connor … Scot
Grant Robert Keelan … John
Tara Lee … Shona
Kit Clark … Wullie McClean
Blair Robertson … Pike
Mingus Johnston … Kenny
Paula Masterton … Anne
Carolyn Bonnyman … Moyra
Richard Mason … Rod Smallwood (as Richard Hazlehurst Mason)
Alastair Thomson Mills … Fergie
Reanne Farley … Chrissy
David Izatt … Malky
Shend … Burton
Jim Sweeney … Father Vetrianio
Gordon Morris … Football Manager
Alec Westwood … Bernie McConnell

Filming locations:

Dundee, Scotland, UK

Technical details:

91 minutes

Trailer: