DEAD MAN'S SHOES
Richard (Paddy Considine), an ex-paratrooper, returns to his small home town seeking revenge against a bunch of seven drug-dealing losers who once amused themselves by torturing his vulnerable younger sibling, Anthony (Toby Kebbell), a gentle, affectionate but retarded young man. Anthony's death drives Richard to a cold bloodied mission against the men, each of whom took some part in the taunting that led to tragedy.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Shane Meadows declares himself in the notes to the film, which we critics get to see, but most of the public never will. This is a pity (in some cases) because like commentary on a DVD, the director's intentions are clarified, enabling us better to make the assessment whether he has succeeded in those objectives. That's always one of the key aspects of reviewing films; the other is whether we like what he's done, irrespective of his own intentions.
Meadows says he made this film driven by two factors: one was the suicide of a close friend who, like Anthony (Toby Kebbel) in the film, was bullied and took drugs, and eventually committed suicide. The other was his sense of outrage that everyday atrocities go unheaded in so many of Britain's small towns. But it's his revelation that he feels murderous anger towards the people who do these things, that he suffers from (but controls) road rage, and with out the catharsis that film offers, "God knows what can happen". So in simple terms, this film enables him to act out his deadly vengeance against shitty idiots who peddle drugs and bully weaker, vulnerable people. This is really important to understand with a film like this, because it makes much criticism of its shortcomings meaningless; it doesn't have to make complete sense to achieve HIS objectives, as long as the revenge is cathartic.
All this works: he shows us the heinous acts of the bastards who bullied Richard's little brother, all in black and white flashbacks scattered through the linear present day story. The gang of drug selling no hopers have no redeeming features (except one who shows remorse) and the action advances steadily as the body count grows. The R rating is due to the graphic violence.
Whether this is satisfying cinema is another matter, especially as he invests so much in stylistics and in the pretentious music. Meadows seems to dress up the vicious revenge story with some pompous decoration to elevate the film into something profound, but the material can't bear the weight of that. Nor does he manage to make Anthony's ghost another character; it is simply confusing for him to appear at Richard's side only some of the time, especially in the establishment scenes. The film is further proof that revenge, even when served as a cold dish as this is, ends up being far too chewy for a satisfying movie meal.
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DEAD MAN'S SHOES (R)
CAST: Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell, Jo Hartley, Seamus O'Neill, Stuart Wolfenden, Paul Sadot, Paul Hustfield, Emily Aston, George Newton, Neil Bell, Craig Cinsidine, Matt Considine, Andrew Shim,
PRODUCER: Mark Herbert
DIRECTOR: Shane Meadows
SCRIPT: Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen
EDITOR: Celia Haining, Lucas Roche, Chris Wyatt
MUSIC: Aphex Twin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adam Tomlinson
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 12, 2006