Schemers – McLean’s gritty fight for success, at times, feels airbrushed and hollow

Schemers is available to rent or buy from 25th January 2021

Do you remember the feeling of invincibility that followed you like a shadow during your late teens and early twenties? If so, you possibly also remember that this feeling was also coupled with an urgent need to find your place in the world—the blaze of ideas born from the hormonal slumber of adolescence suddenly ignited by independence and adventure. However, in many cases, these dreams and aspirations went unfulfilled. The pressures of work or study never allowing for the freedom to build the life swimming in your mind. But occasionally, even when dreams appear lost a sudden flash of inspiration can change everything—the spark of a quick decision, new friendship, love or location opening up a path of opportunity.

Dave McLean’s autobiographical exploration of his own youth in Dundee is most potent when exploring the issues above. But, also lacks depth in taking these themes beyond the boundaries of its Trainspotting meets Gregory’s Girl aesthetic. Now at this point, many of you may be asking ‘Who’s Dave McLean?’ Well, let me take a moment to remind you. Dave McLean is a rock promoter who has worked with Thin Lizzy, Placebo, and more; becoming the British grunge music champion. However, his journey to success and partying alongside David Bowie began in the backstreets of Dundee in 1980. And it is here where Schemers picks up McLean’s story. Injecting his wheeler-dealer antics alongside mates John (Grant Robert Keelan) and Scot (Sean Connor) with humour, music and nostalgia.

McLean’s direction is assured, as is the lead performance of Connor Berry in his first major role. However, despite this, Schemers narrative never quite finds its feet as it hops skips and jumps between music biopic, coming of age journey, comedy and crime drama. Its initial promise in exploring the invincibility, naivety and passion of youth, floundering by the finale. In a film where McLean and friends’ gritty fight for success, at times, feels airbrushed and hollow.


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