You could argue that Shane Meadows is up to his same old tricks with “Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee,” but it’s a still a good trick. Proving few helmers of his ilk deliver so much bang for your buck, this low-budget improvised comedy, about the friendship between a young rapper (Dean Palinczuk) and an embittered roadie (Paddy Considine), reps a charming trifle that revisits familiar Meadowsian territory. Pic is two minutes shorter than his last tasty amuse-bouche, the 70-minute “Somers Town,” but brevity didn’t seem to do the latter much B.O. harm, so this may pull in a niche crowd.
Born out of a self-set challenge to make a film in five days, the pic actually centers around a roadie character, Le Donk, co-created by helmer Meadows and star Considine (a longstanding Meadows alumnus), who was featured in numerous unreleased shorts the duo made together over the years (some of which are available on YouTube). A snarling, angry perpetual loser always boasting of his ties to big-name bands (whose names he often gets wrong), Considine’s Le Donk is an engaging creation — so engaging, in fact, that Steve Coogan fashioned his own version of the character for his Brit TV series “Saxondale.”
The premise here has Meadows (played by the helmer himself) making a docu about Le Donk’s efforts to help his young lodger Dean (Palinczuk), aka Scor-Zay-Zee, get a slot rapping to a crowd of 50,000 at an upcoming Arctic Monkeys concert. In the lead-up to the gig, Meadows, his co-lenser Dean Rogers, sound man Dan Crowley and producer Mark Herbert (all as themselves) follow Le Donk as he goes to visit his pregnant ex-wife Olivia (pro thesp Olivia Coleman), who’s shacked up with a nice guy (Richard Graham, also the pic’s editor) whom Le Donk never tires of insulting.
Pic’s core relationship, however, is between Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, the latter a shy, shuffling man-mountain who nevertheless proves he really has the chops when he finally takes the stage. Le Donk, actually a mass of insecurities despite his bluster, feels jealous of Scor-Zay-Zee’s talent and at several points almost sabotages the big break he’s ostensibly trying to set up. In essence, this ends up being yet another precarious teaming between an introvert and damaged blowhard, a dynamic Meadows has explored with variations before, most notably in “Somers Town,” “This Is England” and “A Room for Romeo Brass.”
Per Meadows at the Q&A session following its Edinburgh premiere, the pic had no written script whatsoever, so it’s an impressive feat that it feels as cohesive as it does. Much of its charm hinges on Considine’s delicious comic riffing, although the supporting players, especially Palinczuk and Coleman, hold their own admirably.
Still, the suspicion persists that “Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee” would have worked even better as yet another short, especially when the energy starts flagging at end. Pic might be most effective as a teaching tool for film students, demonstrating what can be done with an extremely limited budget, talented thesps, good direction, a crew willing to multitask and masses of good will from well-connected friends.