out of Five
Running time: 90
Lean, mean, extremely violent thriller with yet another stand-out
performance from Paddy Considine – this is not the Shane Meadows we’re used to.
Dead Man’s Shoes marks an abrupt change of pace for director Shane Meadows, the self-styled “Ken Loach with gags”, whose previous films such as twentyfourseven and Once Upon a Time in the Midlands have been likeable comedy dramas.
First And Foremost A Revenge Thriller
Dead Man’s Shoes then is, first and foremost, a revenge thriller – it’s Point Blank, Midlands-style. As such, it’s watchable and occasionally rather nasty, but ultimately it doesn’t quite work, despite another brilliant performance from Paddy Considine (who co-wrote the film).
Considine plays Richard, an ex-soldier who returns to his hometown with his mentally-challenged younger brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) in tow. It soon becomes clear that the town’s assorted criminals and lowlifes, led by pack leader Sonny (Gary Stretch), have abused Anthony in some way and Richard is out for revenge. First he taunts them and then he starts picking them off in particularly nasty ways, slasher-flick style.
Paddy Considine, whose breakthrough performance was in Shane Meadows’ second feature, A Room For Romeo Brass, gives a performance that ensures that the film is never less than watchable – we constantly sense the tension within him between nice guy and complete psychopath.
The problem is that, as nasty as the crims are, when we eventually find out what they did to Anthony, it’s rather anti-climactic and they don’t really deserve their particularly violent deaths.
Problem With Dialogue
Another problem with the film is the dialogue, which feels badly improvised, to the point where characters are just mumbling. This may have been deliberate, in order to achieve a sense of realism, only if so, it doesn’t work. For one thing, it’s frustrating not to be able to hear the dialogue in places and for another, it jars with what is obviously a kind of social worker’s revenge fantasy.
On a lighter note, there are flashes of absurd humour (Richard painting the thugs while they sleep and spiking their tea) so Meadows hasn’t abandoned his sense of humour altogether – however, it’s interesting to learn that early drafts of the film were much more comedic in tone.
In short, Dead Man’s Shoes is never less than watchable, thanks to Considine’s performance, but it’s never really engaging either and there’s a definite sense of the end not justifying the means.