film review: “dead man’s shoes”
dead man’s shoes is a film about revenge. its a gritty thriller with a human touch.
richard returns from the army, to his home town in the peak district, to exact revenge on some men who tormented his mentally disabled younger brother, anthony. we don’t immediately know what these men did but as we get to know them we are soon willing to believe that it was very bad indeed. they’re drug dealers (which doesn’t automatically qualify them as evil, but it certainly doesn’t help their case) and the sort of people who are abusive, intimidating and aggressive to others (and each other) and find that kind of behaviour incredibly funny. there’s a callousness and clan mentality to them which is offputting and makes them very unlikeable. as the film develops we see what they did interspersed with scenes in the present day, putting richard’s actions in context.
anthony’s tormentors – not finding things so funny anymore…
richard’s revenge is very tense but engrossing viewing. initially he just scares them a little and yet, even though he hasn’t done them any physical harm, his actions are already quite sinister. things soon become more serious, however, as he starts exacting his revenge in earnest.
if i can recommend this film for just one reason it would be for the acting. the acting is superb and very fresh. most of the actors were unknowns at the time of filming. their acting is very natural and realistic which gives the film a visceral quality. and yet with films with that kind of acting, i sometimes find them too hard and have to be in the mood for them. with dead man’s shoes its different, because the director has filmed it beautifully – there’s a polish to the filming – and the acting is still controlled, so nothing spills out over the edges. its especially worth watching for the performance by paddy considine, who plays richard, who’s acting is so free from cliches that it is very refreshing. i can’t remember when i found acting as absorbing as in this film.
paddy considine as “richard” – a very unconventional avenging angel
i find revenge one of the most engaging plot devices for a novel or a film. i loved the crow and i find the scene in true romance where clarence confronts drexl one of the most riveting in cinema (i suppose that scene isn’t purely about vengeance but it is fuelled by it). i also love the count of monte cristo! and does anyone know alan moore’s swamp thing? one of the best sequences of that series was when they held abby captive and swamp thing went ballistic. oh! and the second preacher trade, until the end of the world, when jessie walks the walk…!
i’ve gone off-topic a bit – back to the film. one of the big things i liked about this film is how fresh it is. richard is such a different kind of avenging angel. as my wife, charlotte, pointed out, what makes richard so unnerving is that he doesn’t look particularly tough, or rough, or have those mad eyes (well, maybe a little). he simply looks unafraid – focused and unafraid. which is something which scares one of the thugs who tries to intimidate him. cinematically its a marvelous scene, because the thug is very intimidating and cocksure, and no doubt very, very capable (i certainly wouldn’t stand up to him – in fact the actor who plays him used to be a boxer) and yet, richard just stands there. he has a look which says that he simply knows what he’s going to do and there is no room for fear or decisions any more. the decision has been made for him.
i personally found this film very moving. its also fresh and original, and deeper than it may appear. so as not to spoil it i haven’t gone into all the details but it deals with its subject matter maturely and intelligently. i’d recommend it to anyone as long as they don’t mind violent themes. this is such a good film, it just has to be seen.