If you’ve never heard of director Shane Meadows, I highly suggest rushing out and renting, if nothing else, Dead Man’s Shoes. It is a horrific, yet nuanced revenge film with enough psychological weight to counterbalance the extreme violence. If one were to assign a motif to Meadow’s films it would have to be something along the lines of the ensnaring power of England’s crime culture. Sometimes this motif is represented in love stories involving seedy characters and other times he focuses on the irreversible effects of gang violence on a person’s childhood. His films often employ a healthy dose of humor, but I don’t believe anyone would characterize him as a comedy director; enter Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee.
Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee is a mockumentary centering on the exploits of rock-n-roll roadie Le Donk (Paddy Considine). Le Donk is a champion loser and his child-like selfishness and crass presence has cost him his pregnant girlfriend and, by extension, his only child. Ever the delusional optimist Le Donk decides he is no longer just a roadie, but a music producer as well. He takes a young, very Caucasian, rapper named Scor-Zay-Zee (Dean Palinczuk) under his wing and, in an effort to bolster his own ego, convinces Scor-Zay-Zee that he is working to jumpstart his career; getting him a gig at an upcoming music festival. Turns out Le Donk is actually just working the festival in a roadie capacity, but Scor-Zay-Zee manages to impress the headlining band enough to earn his own spot on the schedule. Suddenly, Le Donk goes from manager to band-member.
Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee is far from perfect and its flaws are visible even at great distances. But I find them all forgivable for two reasons. First, this is less a film as an experiment by an established director aiming to challenge himself creatively. There is an organic quality to the film that lends credence to the possibility that this entire project was constructed on impulse which Meadows realized over the course of a weekend. The second feather in this film’s cap that supersedes its flaws is that it harbors flashes of real genius. There are jokes in the film and scenarios concocted for our heroes that smack of the likes of Spinal Tap and are either uproariously funny or strikingly subversive. The other truly genius thing about Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee is its variation on the genre.
Typically mockumentaries have not only fictional, if not scripted, characters but also the entire world in which these characters exist is fabricated to accommodate the comedy. But Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee was filmed during an actual music festival and features the entirely genuine band The Arctic Monkeys. So what Meadow’s has done is create absurdist characters that he then implants into a completely legitimate setting. The difference between this and something made by Sacha Baron Cohen is that the comedy is not born of the shock value of real people attempting to cope with starkly contrasting personalities. The subjects of Meadow’s mockumentary, the ones with whom we spend the majority of our time, are all actors but they integrate seamlessly with the actual musicians and concert crews because they exist within the same realm. It’s a really fascinating concept that, while not completely flawless in execution, I would love to see mined for more potential.
Paddy Considine, in the role of Le Donk, is fantastic. While anyone who has seen Hot Fuzz knows Considine has comedic chops, in this film he is incredibly committed to creating a character that walks a fine line between exaggerated egoism and outright farce. His ability to keep the character grounded even while venturing into the absurd is truly impressive. And though it may be hard for Yankee audiences to understand every word he says, I myself lost a goodly portion of the dialogue, his line delivery is expertly funny. Dean Palinczuk who plays Scor-Zay-Zee does so with an immense vulnerability and dim-witted charm. The shards of his personal life that we farm from his sporadic, mumbling revelations are impossibly heart-warming. I love that he is actually a half-decent rapper because it makes the entwining of mocumentary and documentary more pronounced.
The biggest problem with Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee is that it leans too heavily on cliches from actual documentaries. By about the third or fourth “poignant montage” wherein our ridiculous roadie becomes unsystematically pensive, it gets to be a chore. The debatable aspect of these moments is whether Meadows is deliberately subjecting us to the repetitiveness as a knock on documentary cliches or if he wanted to give Considine more emotional content to work with. It would be remarkably easy to make a case for either scenario, but the inescapable truth is that it just does not work and mires what should be a brisk 71 minute runtime. But again, this is an error’ can forgive given the sheer experimental quality of the piece and how well it works otherwise.