Film Review – Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

The image that would haunt me for a long time...

The image that would haunt me for a long time…

Dead Man’s Shoes

Directed by Shane Meadows

Starring Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell

Review by Jordan

Recently Eddie wrote an opinion piece on the demise of the video rental store, a place where one could (or still can… they’re not extinct) wander contently through the aisles until grabbed by remarkable cover art and a succinct blurb. Being young and adventurous (also, being a Male) my mission was always to choose (and get Dad to rent) anything rated at least MA with medium level violence – the more violent it looked, the more likely it’d be in the VCR or DVD player that night.

Given this intent, you could understand why one night I was drawn to Dead Man’s Shoes. In spending most of my spare time re-watching Desperado, I had no idea at the time who Shane Meadows was, nor the brand of film that he specialised in… all I knew was that the case featured a man in a gas mask holding a shotgun, and that was enough. What followed was a turning point in my understanding of film and its power, and a lesson about not judging a movie by its cover. Ever.

Realistic and unflinching to a point of almost heart-breaking torment, Meadow’s examination of anguish and revenge is certainly not a film every teenager should see; in fact I remember my sister leaving the room crying when I was foolishly watching it in the lounge-room one day. Paddy Considine plays Richard, a soldier returned home to exact vengeance on the bullies that have tormented his handicapped brother (an astoundingly committed Toby Kebbell), his methods becoming more shocking and brutal as more is revealed about the atrocities Anthony endured. The small moments of humour scattered throughout Dead Man’s Shoes only make the climax, and the staggeringly complex emotions being fought more difficult to endure, and the depressed locations and mundane, small-world characters add to its hurtful believability.

If it wasn’t for discovering this film in such an accidental fashion, at such a pivotal time, there’s no way I’d have seen it as much as I have. Indeed I rate it extremely highly (it remains in my opinion the best thing Meadows has done), but despite its outstanding performances, structure and candid, verite approach it remains troublingly difficult to recommend to the average cinema goer. Swearing, drug use, violence, all aspects that in many films don’t feel obscene or offensive, here feel as hurtful to the viewer as the victims within the story; this is an uncompromising fable that never wavers in its task of holding the audience in a vice-like grip and sending chills up their spine while stealing their gaze. It must be said, if you’ve never paid much attention to the career of Paddy Considine (recently seen in The World’s End) then this could act as the beginning and end of your correction… his acting, every aspect of it, is nothing short of perfection.

Whether as a drama or a thriller, Dead Man’s Shoes deservedly sits atop its class. It is, however, a victim of its own intense nature and honesty, and as a result starkly unappealing and graphic (there’s nothing better than a good contradiction), and more so than most R 18+ rated films I’ve seen every bit deserving of its rating.

4 disturbing flashbacks out of 5 

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9 responses to “Film Review – Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

  1. :O Why have i not watched this yet!? I’m quite a fan of Shane Meadows! 🙂 I loved This is england and of course! The tv series too. I’m a sucker for ‘gritty’ films haha But..by the sounds of it, i shall have prepare myself :S :L

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