‘Schemers’ review: upstart gig promoter bets it all on a rock and roll dream

Dave McLean tussles with hard nut gangsters as he chances his way to the big time

On paper, Schemers sounds like the next great music film. It follows Davie McLean (Conor Berry), who starts his own disco with the sole purpose of impressing a girl, but soon graduates to booking bands for gigs. He secures the likes of XTC and Ultravox for paltry sums, gets involved with local gangsters and has a worrying tendency to gamble all his money away.

McLean’s dalliances with Dundee’s underworld hard men don’t take long to come back and bite him on the arse, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend Shona (Tara Lee). Owing them £3,000, he and his business partners John (Grant Robert Keelan) and Scot (Sean Connor) hatch a plan to pay off the scallys – book Pink Floyd or Fleetwood Mac for the trio’s biggest-ever show. When they’re told how much either act would cost, they lower their ambitions and settle for Iron Maiden who, at this point, are about to release their debut album. What could go wrong?

Given that McLean skates through life, seemingly dodging disaster after disaster (when we first meet him he’s had his leg broken for trying to hook up with someone’s fiancée), quite a lot goes wrong – not least because he doesn’t even bother to read the contract Maiden’s agent sends him. This could be a hilarious showcase for a green, amateur promoter who’s bitten off more than he can chew, but instead it feels rushed compared to the pre-amble that led us here.

Directed, produced and co-written by the real Dave McLean, Schemers could benefit from a few additional voices. The characters feel underdeveloped – and McLean’s memories of his friends and acquaintances are hazy at best. When he tries to pull off a madcap finale, he undercooks it again, flipping from a series of doomed conversations with the metal band’s manager to the glorious, all-alright-in-the-end payoff. Even the way Shona coaxes him into skipping town for a shot at glory feels abrupt.

Schemers, Conor Berry
Conor Berry in ‘Schemers’. Credit: Press

For the most part though, Schemers is entertaining enough. Without Berry’s charming portrayal of a chancer suddenly making a name for himself, it would be a far lesser movie – until the final scenes, he makes the scrappy promoter seem like a whirlwind of fortune and fun. Keelan and Connor, meanwhile, are given less time to shine, but do well with the material they’re given.

Frustratingly, we’re told the fates of each of the trio via a series of title screens and it’s hard not to feel short-changed. It’s important to tell the beginning of any story, but you’ll come to question if it needed a whole film dedicated to it when you read some of the tales that followed. Still, if a Schemers sequel is made, it should be a lot more compelling than its first instalment.

Details

  • Director: Dave McLean
  • Starring: Conor Berry, Sean Connor, Grant Robert Keelan
  • Release date: September 25
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