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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Attendees at Shane Meadows' 'This Is England' premiere in October 2006
were treated to a whole other sideshow that evening at London's Odeon
West End. For mingling with the guests, sporting familiar shaggy locks
and accents that could shatter breeze blocks, was a bunch of gawky
indie lads from Sheffield, who had recently smashed their way into the
At the beginning of the year, the Arctic Monkeys' album became the fastest-selling debut in UK chart history, going on to win the Mercury Prize that September. And though celebrities and movie launches go together like cocktails and canapes, there was something rather more significant about young Alex Turner and Co's presence, at the director's invitation. After all, given their shared brand of Midlands dirty realism, it seemed only a matter of time before their creative orbits collided.
And - boom - so they did: 'Le Donk And Scor-Zay-Zee' is the hilarious result of a collaboration between Meadows and the 'Arctical Monkeys', as Paddy Considine's roadie and failed musician "Le Donk" refers to them in this nano-budget, wholly improvised comedy - a glorious mash-up of fact and fiction, shot in exactly five days under Shane's new '5 Day Features Movement.' (Think of it like 'Dogme' in a hurry.)
Via improvised routines which owe less to Christopher Guest than to Mike Leigh's character-establishing sessions in public places, Shane Meadows (or rather 'Shane Meadows') trails the blustering chancer around with a two-man crew, documenting his attempts to secure his lodger and white rapping protégé Scor-Zay-Zee a 2.30pm Sunday slot at a 50,000-strong 'Monkeys gig. In the event, cast and crew simply pitched up at the real-life concert at Manchester's Old Trafford, planted themselves backstage and filmed the results.
Along the way, the would-be Svengali (birth name Nicholas) visits his heavily-pregnant ex, Olivia (Olivia Coleman), and her live-in boyfriend Richard (the film's editor Richard Graham), while jealously muscling in on Scor-Zay-Zee's emceeing. If Black Grape had Kermit, and The Streets had 'Leo the Lion', Scor-Zay-Zee has a volatile middle-aged bloke whose unique backing vocals consist solely of chanting the names of every notable he can remember from Ryan Seacrest to Harold Shipman, Tinky Winky and Worzel Gummidge. And Selwyn Froggitt. Given the fact it didn't even get its own spin-off movie (during an era when every British sitcom from Father, Dear Father to That's Your Funeral spawned big-screen versions), this is almost certainly the only feature film in existence to name check Bill Maynard's 1970s Yorkshire Television comedy.
Will fatherhood finally make a man of Le Donk? ("I can watch him growing up via the web, like having a cyber-pet" he reassures Olivia). Will Scor-Zay-Zee, who's "just trying to make mum proud" ever get his one big chance? And if so, will the baby-faced, Buddha-sized rapper be allowed to perform a stage dive on the day? (As Le Donk suggests, "you could always do a Beth Ditto and climb down...")
The driven, compulsive Meadows has made, and continues to make, dozens upon dozens of short films, documentaries and promos. They might not all be destined for the silver screen or listed on the IMDb (the 15-second long 'The Stairwell', for example, makes 2008's 'Somers Town' look like 'Shoah') but it doesn't mean Meadows takes any less care over them.
Le Donk And Scor-Zay-Zee is only slightly longer than Somers Town, but to write it off as a mere divertissement would be just as short-sighted as calling the latter 'an extended Eurostar commercial.' This is jaw-bustingly funny stuff, uproarious, delightful and unexpectedly touching, containing more laugh-out-loud moments than most Hollywood comedies twice the length. Watching this, it also makes you wonder how many people were in on the joke.
It is also fantastic to see Meadows and Considine - the Martin, uh, Scor-Zay-Zee and Bobby De Niro of British cinema - making movies together again after a five-year hiatus. As the mardy, self-deluding Donk, Considine is a blast; a fully-fleshed, three-dimensional idiot, with echoes of Viz comic's Sid The Sexist along with Paul Coogan's Paul Calf and Tommy Saxondale. And if you're thinking the resemblance seems a bit too close to the latter, Considine's roadie character actually precedes Coogan's by some 15 years. "I feel like Donnie Darko going in to infiltrate the Mafia" he wildly ad-libs at one point, and you can practically see him thinking, "What does that even mean?"
The Islam-converted Scor-Zay-Zee, who previously "lost it on the bud - intense paranoia", and now wears a baseball cap sporting the legend "Kids need hugs not drugs" is the target for most of Le Donk's self-loathing verbals, whether dismissed as "Uncle Bulgaria" or "the Honey Monster with a lobotomy". Yet Scorz, aka Dean Palinczuk, a real-life rapper, whose brilliantly excoriating, Daily Telegraph-baiting track "Great Britain" received much BBC airplay in 2004, clearly isn't the simpleton his 'manager' makes him out to be. No less a personage than Chuck D once bigged up Scor-Zay-Zee's former Nottingham crew Out Da Ville, and Meadows' film is as much a showcase for Palinczuk's lyrical skills as it is of Considine's improv chops, or the director's guerrilla film-making abilities. Just wait till he hits the stage.
And the Arctic Monkeys? Well, there's not a note of their music in here (if there's a complaint, it's only that Meadows' ongoing love affair with slightly twee acoustic folk is occasionally a little too intrusive at times), but stick around for the credits, as Considine, in character, regales the half-bemused, half-appalled boys backstage with seedy chapters from his touring days, alternately involving a New York hermaphrodite - and a truly chronic case of piles.
Shane Meadows (This is England) directs this mock music documentary
about Le Donk (Paddy Considine), a Nottingham based roadie working for
The Arctic Monkeys and managing rapped Scor-zay-zee (playing himself).
The film blends reality and fiction and is set and filmed in five days
leading up to an Arctic Monkeys gig in Manchester. Le Donk has recently
separated from his pregnant girlfriend (Olivia Coleman) and travels to
Manchester with Scor-zay-zee for work and with the hope that he can
somehow get the rapper on the bill at the gig.
Paddy Considine is brilliant as Le Donk and carries the entire movie. Most of his lines are improvised and the majority work, with hilarious results. He appears to be channelling David Brent and Alan Partridge at times but is thoroughly convincing. The film itself outstays its welcome after about 45 minutes. Despite a promising start the joke kind of gets old by the mid way point and although the film comes in at only 71 minutes, it feels long. I couldn't help feeling that it was more suited to TV and perhaps would have worked better as a 45 minute or one hour special. I'm glad that I didn't see it at the cinema myself.
The idea itself is interesting and well executed but it is unable to sustain an entire feature, even one as short as this (there are at least three musical montages). Unlike Spinal Tap for instance which has two very strong central characters and numerous side characters, Le Donk is pretty much here on his own. Scor-zay-zee provides the odd funny line but he is either not good enough or not used enough to provide much impact. The side story of Le Donk's pregnant ex added a few minutes to the run time but is perhaps more important for cementing the two actors relationship before they worked together on Considine's brilliant directorial debut Tyrannosaur.
Overall the film is sometimes entertaining and occasionally very funny but doesn't have enough about it for a successful feature film. You have to commend everyone involved though as they've managed to make an average film in just five days with a budget of £48,000 when many studio films fall flatter than this with budgets one hundred times that.
The success of Shane Meadows' recent television series on Channel 4 will hopefully spike a revival of interest in his brilliant movies; including this one, his funniest film yet. In his youth, Meadows was in a band with Paddy Considine, whose career as an actor he later helped launch; and the two are back together here, with Meadows playing a fictionalised version of himself, a film-maker shooting a documentary about the life of a roadie (Considine) and his musical protégé, a most unlikely rapper. Considine is great, as ever, in playing the part of a social misfit utterly lacking in self-awareness: the film is full of laugh-out-load moments, yet still manages to be touching in places. I don't know if the low budget is the reason why the role of a supposedly new-born baby is played by a child who's practically a toddler, and it's scarcely a weighty piece, but it's delightful nonetheless. I continue to find Meadows' ongoing struggle for commissions amazing - to me, he's the best film-maker we have in the U.K. right now.
A few years after the heights of This is England, Shane Meadows and
Paddy Considine came out with this little seen film which is a sort of
reality-mockumentary. The film follows a roadie of sorts ahead of him
setting up for the Arctic Monkeys and also trying to secure a warm-up
slot for podgy white rapper Scor-Zay-zee. In the style of a reality
show it is mostly unscripted as it follows Le Donk around from his
parent's home to his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
This sat on my queue for quite some time before I finally decided to watch it and I think the reasons for this are pretty clear. Even from the description the film looks like something that was thrown together in about five days on the barest expenses and it looks like that might be a bad thing, despite it being something the makers boast about. This is exactly what the film turns out to be though and it is not always a good thing. Working with a very basic script and improvising a lot of stuff is tougher than it looks; you think it must be possible to work it out in the edit but the truth must be you have hours of rubbish because the reason people sound cool in movies is that it is scripted, rehearsed and refined in real life you have to just say whatever comes, which isn't that good often. And so it is in this film because what is missing from it is meaning.
It is character driven they are in the titles, they are the focus of the plot and they are the only reason cameras are there so it only stands to reason we have a film about them as characters. The door is open in particular for the film to find the person behind the swagger and noise in Le Donk but the film never does it. It would be tough to achieve this all improvised but it could have been done with clearer scene structure and direction, and it would have made the film better by some margin as it would have given something for the viewer to follow. It sort of happens, but that's about the height of it because mostly Le Donk is a comedy character (who isn't particularly funny) and we don't learn a terrible lot about him.
This isn't Considine's fault though, because he at least makes the film watchable by virtue of his performance. He is an arrogant idiot who is full of unjustified toughness and it shows to everyone except him. I would have loved Meadows to partially script some scenes to make more of this character but I guess that what happens when you limit yourself to a few days to make the film. Palinczuk is likable and has some ability with writing for sure, but again there isn't a person here what you see is all we're allowed to get. Colman is an odd find but is natural here, while the star power of the Arctic Monkeys at least doesn't get in the way of the film.
Overall though, this is a so-so film. It is driven forward by Considine and the gimmick of how it was all made, but these are not enough on their own. It works well considering it was improvised but to be honest it could have done with a bit more of a structure in terms of the characters to allow us to benefit from it being so tightly focused on them. This is a novelty, but it could have been better with just a little bit more work in regards character and character development. Worth a glance for Meadows/Considine fans, but for the casual viewer it will feel like a joke stretched thin.
This is a seriously funny film, for so many different reasons. If you
like the dynamics of Meadows and Considine in films such as Dead Mans
Shoes and A Room for Romeo Brass then this film will amaze you.
Firstly Considine has a real East Midlands English edge to him when he acts with Meadows, those shifty unpredictable eyes, and that stare that lasts a little bit too long. Naturally he is a scary actor, and so to see him become a goofy, comedic clown is so surprising it takes half the film to convince yourself it's actually him.
The film is improvised and yes they probably shot miles of footage for the 71 minutes used, but my God they looked like they were having a great laugh. Meadows can often be heard pissing himself laughing in the background when Considine throws out some serious offbeat ideas (and words). This in itself made me laugh.
The comedy is funny because it feels quite natural, you spend most of the time laughing at the characters and the anecdotes they spill, more than you do at the situations they are in, which adds something really interesting to the film, it's not a slapstick for the Americans.
The film holds together fairly well, but I didn't really care about that, I just enjoyed laughing out loud to it. I would recommend though watching Dead Mans Shoes just before to give you an amazing contrast, and sharpen the experience.
Like I said it's funny, entertaining and if you like any of the actors or meadows in it - it's a must see. I just wished I was there when they shot it.
As you might imagine, I had great expectations of this film, indeed I
have great expectations of any film starring Britain's scariest actor
Paddy Considine. But this was yet another sleight outing from Shane
Meadows who had the semi-eponymous Mr Considine giving a fine
performance, but, mysteriously, as David Brent!
Nevermind, I found his companion-in-title Scor-Zay-Zee fascinating, all the more so when I contemplate he is actually a rapper! Extra marks were on offer if Shane had turned his camera across the road at the final Arctic Monkeys gig for a quick shot of my old school.
All in all, an opportunity missed!
Shane Meadows has earned an incomparable amount of slack over the
course of his 13 year career, and although this takes an even bigger
cut than last year's well observed but insubstantial Somers Town, its
an enjoyable watch.
And although real life Nottingham rapper Scorzayzee gets top billing, this is basically the Paddy Considine show, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Its dramatically underpowered and about as edgy as an episode of Last Of The Summer Wine, but its short and peppy and there are quite a few laughs in it.
But no 71 minute film should really be allowed to have four heedless musical montages in it.
And I'd have been monumentally p*ssed off if I'd have paid to see it in a cinema.
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