Schemers Review

My first thought when pressing play on Schemers was, do I need subtitles for this? 

Schemers is a coming of age comedy/crime drama set in the Scottish town of Dundee, the true story focuses on the early life and career of David McLean, a music promoter who was instrumental in bringing American grunge to the UK back in the ’90s but started out as an ambitious and sometimes foolhardy teen trying to find his way in life by putting on gigs in his local town with his friends and a little help from the local mob.

Written and directed by MacLean himself, comparisons have already been made to Trainspotting – an incredibly lazy comparison which pretty much starts and stops with the Scottish accent. Where Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s iconic novel was an original, edgy and highly effective tale of youth drug culture, Schemers is a fairly well-trodden coming of age tale of a teen trying to break out of his dead-end town whilst falling in love and getting on the wrong side of the law.

Which isn’t to say Schemers is a bad film, far from it – and there are some genuinely funny moments. Like our three young entrepreneurs phoning Iron Maiden’s promoter from their local chippy to blag a Dundee gig with the band, or local mobsters abandoning them in an estuary forcing them to swim to shore through freezing Scottish waters.

Schemers can end up feeling all too familiar, as a knock off Guy Ritchie crime plot is interwoven with the standard adolescent tropes you’d find in most teen movies.

Neither a coming of age comedy/drama nor a crime caper set in the murky world of Dundee’s music scene, Schemers doesn’t really know what it is and as a result it doesn’t quite work as either.

If I want a music industry-focused film I’d watch the Commitments or 24 Hour Party People. If I wanted a really good teen film I’d go for Booksmart or Juno.

The tropes come thick and fast and the inevitable bump in the road appears on cue before the story defining moment of the Iron Maiden gig wraps things up, bookmarked with a grizzled old music promoter telling the lads in Field of Dreams style that if you book them, they will come.

Having said that, Schemers is an enjoyable watch at times and the last 20 minutes focussing on the Iron Maiden gig is a fun ride.  The movie at times looks and sounds great, Dundee is a lovely backdrop to the story and the soundtrack is a real nostalgia trip.

I’m sure David has better stories than this from his career and personally I would love to hear tales about him promoting Nirvana in the UK.  But in the meantime Schemers is a fairly enjoyable watch if not exactly exciting or memorable.

What was memorable to me were the Iron Maiden vinyls decorating the wall of a local nightclub in one scene, one of which wouldn’t have been released in the year Schemers is set.

I’m not pedantic enough to make a big deal of this, but Number of the Beast was released as a single in 1982 and Schemers is set in 1980.

Ok, so maybe I am pedantic enough when it comes to Iron Maiden.

Andrew Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

September 2020