Worth A Look: 25%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 2.78%
2 reviews, 60 user ratings
|Dead Man's Shoes
by MP Bartley
If you agree with the above statement, then it's worth taking a look at the treatment that Richard (Paddy Considine) dishes out to the vengeful thugs around him in 'Dead Man's Shoes'. It's grimly violent, coldly done, and at first immensely satisfying. But, like all good revenge films should do, it asks the question is that kind of satisfaction worth getting?Richard is a soldier, newly out from the British army returning home to his village in Derbyshire, which looks like the back end of nowhere's less attractive brother.
"Revenge is a dish best served cold."
But Richard hasn't come home for tea and biscuits, he's come back on behalf of his younger, mentally challenged brother Anthony (Steven Kebbell, a superb performance, never descending into ticks or gimmicks). Anthony has been brutalised and traumatised by a local gang of drug dealers, and this annoys Richard. A hell of a lot. And you really, really don't want to annoy Richard.
Writer/director Shane Meadows does a great job here, in finding a fresh angle to look at this rather simplistic tale. His first success, is to scale it down so it becomes bitterly and grittily realistic. This isn't the Mafia or international drug lords that Richard is lashing out at, these are just the common, nasty, bullying yobs that you'll find in any small village. Not big enough to warrant a huge police investigation, but scary enough (when they're all together, at least) to have a whole village hushed and fearful. This makes them all the more identifiable, and when combined with the desolate, windswept location gives the film a chilly atmosphere to seep through to your bones. Likewise, Richard doesn't load up with rocket launchers or learn kung-fu to get his revenge, it's about initial intimidation and then using whatever he can get his hands on.
Of course, this portrayal of the thugs that we readily recoginse, means that, for most of us, we really want them to get their just desserts. And they do, for the most case, as Richard dresses up in a gas mask to just freak them out at first (and it is very freaky) before dealing out violent retribution with an axe, gun, and best of all, drug laced tea. But this is the clever part; sometimes you end up thinking that Richard doesn't go far enough with this scum. Some of them he lets off relatively lightly, leaving the viewer thirsting for more blood. But what does that say about us, if we've been left wanting more bloodshed than we've been given? It's a question that is rammed home by the end, as Richard asks himself, just what has he made himself by descending to their level?
Many comparisons have been made to 'Taxi Driver', but 'Dead Man's Shoe's' has none of that films lofty pretensions, dispensing its street poetry in favour of straight revenge. There's no vaguely pretentious voice-over either, apart from Richard's opening agenda setting dialogue, which may very well be one of the most chilling bits of dialogue of the last few years:
"God will forgive them. God will forgive them and he will let them into heaven.
I can't live with that".
Anchoring this roaring rampage of revenge, is a stunning performance from Considine. Anyone who's been paying attention to his superb performances in films such as '24 Hour Party People' or 'In America' will know him, but will probably not expect him to turn in such a startingly fierce and magnetic performance. Both unsettingly funny and horrifyingly dangerous, it's impossible to take your eyes off him and it's no surprise that he gets the gang as worried as they do. The highlight is where the leader gets out of his passing car to scare Richard away, only for Richard to face him down with madly staring eyes and a huge grin while happily admitting that he's been following them, that he's going to get them all, and that if he was them he'd get away as far as he could.
Even if you're not sure that 'Dead Mans Shoes' is your cup of tea, it's worth seeing just for Considine's blistering performance.As an addition to the rank of revenge films, 'Dead Mans Shoes' is one of the very best. As a British film of last year, it fully deserves its place alongside the best of Danny Boyle, Neil Marshall, Edgar Wright or Michael Winterbottom. Richard is someone who you can quite imagine living down the road from you, or someone you went to school with. Just don't accept a cup of tea from him.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10339&reviewer=293
originally posted: 11/01/05 23:57:32
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