By Fergus Henderson. Davie, a cocky wee man from Dundee, gets his leg mashed by a local tough whose fiancé he’s just recently slept with. With that his dreams of football are now over, so Davie sets about trying to promote local gigs to impress another woman, Shona, the student nurse that treated him during his recovery. So begins the scrappy, and true, story of band manager Dave Maclean.
Maclean is now most well-known for managing Placebo, but Schemers, which Maclean wrote and directed, tells the tale of how he got started in his local Dundee, graduating from small gigs to a climactic Iron Maiden gig at the Caird Hall.
Set somewhere between the late 70s and early 80s, Schemers is crammed with music from the time, making its soundtrack a hoot to listen to, including Dundee’s own The Associates, as well as Hawkwind and others. At times it seems like the budget has mainly been put towards making the soundtrack as classic as possible.
Lead actor Conor Berry is an archetypically Scottish chancer as Davie, the kind of instantly likeable, charismatic character that Schemers rests the film’s heavy lifting on. Not only is his voiceover omnipresent throughout, but his is the only character that is properly fleshed out. Not that the rest of the ensemble don’t invest their characters with plenty of life, most notably Sean Conor as pal Scot and Alastair Thomson Mills as Fergie, the criminal Davie becomes indebted to.
Herein lie the film’s main weakness, which is that – 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.
Still, this is a quintessentially Scottish (and Dundonian) film. You could compare it to Bill Forsyth’s That Sinking Feeling, in that it is a first time, low-budget-rough-around-the-edges kind of film that is buoyed by its warmth and the talents of its cast, imbued with a fundamentally Scottish sense of things, paying affectionate tribute to its own part of the world.
Dundee is never seen onscreen – Schemers thus represents the kind of win that will be celebrated and that Dundonians will point to with pride.
Schemers will be in UK Cinemas from 25th September.
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