Home > film > film review: “dead man’s shoes”

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.

Categories: film
  1. June 27, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Excellent bear! And yes, the acting really was superb. I often worry that there are no more decent actors left out there. But this proved that there are.

  2. June 27, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    If you like revenge films….have you seen Oldboy? That is a chilling film.

  3. jean pierre
    June 27, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    yeah, oldboy is very cool! i think thats easily one of the best films (if not the best) i saw last year.

    its so beautiful actually, in spite of its gloom. one scene that just pops into mind now is that long fighting sequence where he’s in that looong corridor. i found it entrancing and quite a work of art! i like how its so clumsy and real and unending…

    i also love that blonde bodyguard guy. he did so little and his fighting wasn’t flashy and yet the few little moves he did were so assured that they completely convince one that he is a finely honed fighting machine. he also exuded this sense that he was an absolute badass. i watched the extras and i found myself thinking, you know, this guy is effectively an extra. he’s almost never the focus of the camera and says, what, nothing? if anything. but even though his part is so small on paper he made so much of it. the bad guy (well, not quite of course – lets just say the young guy. you know who i mean!) wouldn’t have been nearly as intimidating if the bodyguard weren’t so cool!

    i really like the utter tragedy of the film. if one can like a thing like that. charlotte doesn’t like it – it left her feeling terrible.

    it also had special meaning to me ’cause i’d been to korea and stayed there for two months. i got to know what the people were like and could relate to aspects of their culture depicted in the film. obviously not the kidnapping and all that stuff…! 🙂

  4. June 27, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    I figured you had to have seen that one. There was no way I was having Mary watch that one, she would have killed me because of the ending!

    Getting off the revenge subject, have you seen any of the Wong Kar-Wai films? Chungking Express is one of my favorites and one my wife actually enjoys as well. I have a few friends who couldn’t stand it though, so don’t feel bad if it isn’t one you like.

  5. jean pierre
    June 28, 2007 at 7:01 am

    yeah, the ending… charlotte corrected me when she saw the post i put up. she enjoyed the film very much – the ending just left her feeling terrible. so good move there!
    incidentally, i don’t know how much you know of korean, but the film is actually called oldboy in korea – as in the english word. i think when they say oldboy in the film they also say the english name. it sounds and is written different because of korean word construction. they say “oldeuh-boy”.
    hmm, no, i haven’t seen any wong kar-wai stuff. since i’ve been there i haven’t seen anything but oldboy. did he do ong-bak or is that some other guy?

  6. June 28, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t think so. He has done several films, though and I have not seen many. Chungking Express is the first in a trilogy (in the same sense that Baz Luhrman’s films are a trilogy) that is followed by In the Mood for Love and 2046. I like Chungking because it is such a quirky, whimsical romantic film…at least that is what Mary and I got out of watching it.

    I know nothing about Korea, so any info is an education! 😉

  7. jean pierre
    June 28, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    ah…! i’ve heard of “in the mood for love” and “2046”. i’ll definitely check it out. charlotte loves quirky stuff so she’s sure to like it.

  8. June 29, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    My review of Chungking Express is here:


    if you are interested. Or, you can wait until after you’ve seen it.

  9. jean pierre
    June 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    what a cool sounding film!!

    thanks for the insightful review – i left a comment on it.

  10. June 30, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    If you and your wife like Amelie, you see some comparisons to it in this film that I think you’d really enjoy.

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