Student Critic Maeve Allen reviews
(David McLean, UK, 2019)
Schemers is an autobiographical romp through David McLean’s early years in the music industry. It’s 1979. Davie (Conor Berry) and his friends Scot (Sean Connor) and John (Grant Robert Keelan) start a disco in Dundee. What begins as an outlandish attempt to impress girls sparks a success story. The boys rocket through a chain of gigs, different bands and different venues. Director of Photography Alan McLaughlin captures the smoky, stuffy, sweaty rooms of Dundee’s darkened dance halls. There’s whisky, dancing, gambling and girls. It’s fast and furious.
As the trio become increasingly daring, the gigs get bigger and bolder. But, ‘when you begin to swim deeper, don’t be surprised if you meet sharks’, Davie-as-narrator warns. Sucked into the criminal underworld of Dundee, the three meet leather-clad lotharios Pike (Blair Robertson) and Kenny (Mingus Johnston). They want money and use brutal force to get it.
Davie negotiates with gangsters and music moguls with all the fearless arrogance of a brazen young man. Here, the story begins to sag, giving way to McLean’s self-aggrandizing illustrations of his rebellious youth. McLean shows us you need balls to make it in the music industry and, unfortunately, to enter the script as Davie’s equal. Women are accessories in this story, pouting props that do nothing but decorate McLean’s recollections of his own success. John’s wife is irritating, shrill and housebound. Shona (Tara Lee) thinks dressing ‘like a whore’ will save Davie from being beaten to death. This is an exciting story about an infamous music scene, but while McLean’s opinion of women remains trapped in 1979, a modern audience will wonder why this story is needs to be told in 2019.