by Charlotte Sometimes
To open with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson about the music business is a *choice*. To open a Scotland-set film (albeit set in Dundee, not Edinburgh) with a character running accompanied by narration reflecting on how they got themselves into that position is a *choice*. In fact, Schemers is a film that makes a lot of choices which undermine itself by undercutting proceedings with references, stylistic and tonal decisions that instead hark back to previous, and superior films.
That’s not to say it’s a film without some charm. Based on a true story of a young man, Davie (Conor Berry) trying to con his way out of factory work by putting on concerts with money from the mob – with the support of friends Scot (Sean Connor) and John (Grant Robert Keelan). The characters themselves are entertaining enough, well portrayed and rather likeable – or amusing at the very least. As might be expected from a plot of that description, they’re a ragtag group of misfitted sort-of-up-to-no-good-ers who find themselves constantly getting into trouble. They’re a central trio who help the film chug along fine enough even if they are loosely sketched with rather little depth.
The biggest problem the film has is what it does with them. Whilst the story itself is compelling, it’s not particularly new or original and has been done far better elsewhere. There’s a real problem when a film becomes a tick-box exercise in reminding you of other films you have seen and making you wish you were watching those instead. The most obvious point of comparison would be the criminally underseen Good Vibrations – the 2012 based on a true story film of Northern Irish record store owner Terri Hooley and his chaotic attempts at running a music label, helping develop the punk-rock scene in the process. That’s a film packed full of charm, character development and depth from the inclusion of the impact of The Troubles.
Schemers really doesn’t have that going for it. The narrative is one-note, drifting from one dilemma to the next. The dialogue is unmemorable and without bite. The cinematography is fine, if uninspiring. The film seems to see something in the story and it’s ‘hero’ that just doesn’t translate onto the screen when watching. Whilst there is some semblance of charm thanks to the performances of the cast, and a couple of great soundtrack choices, there’s really little else going for it.
A low-budget caper with a story that isn’t as compelling or interesting as the film seems to think it is, left in the shadow of similar – and superior – films.
Schemers is out in cinemas now!