In English indie filmmaker Shane Meadows’ latest film, recently discharged soldier Richard (Paddy Considine – In America, The Cinderella Man) returns home to the Midlands to seek revenge against the gang of local bullies who did some very bad things to his rather simple-minded little brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell – Match Point, Alexander). While Richard was away in the army, Anthony was taken in by the bullies’ leader Sonny (Gary Stretch – Alexander, Shergar), a controlling and vicious local drug dealer who tormented and tortured poor Anthony.
Shane Meadows’ work (A Room For Romeo Brass, Once Upon A Time In The Midlands), has often characterized the variety of personalities inhabiting his favorite region, The Midlands, and in Dead Man’s Shoes he gives full vent to the potentially violent impulses that lurk within all of us. In a subtle turn, Richard’s path of vengeance takes a slow peel as he reveals further and further the effects of his enormously efficient and brutal methods upon his own psyche.
Lead character Paddy Considine co-wrote the screenplay with Meadows. As Richard, he is a detached army veteran newly returned to his hometown and clearly on a mission. Over the period of the film it is his intent to make them feel the same vicious sensations they visited upon his younger brother. In this area Meadows is spot on, and we feel Richard’s slow descent into madness born of his need to stand up for his younger brother, even if it is far too late. It is a sense of duty, of honor, which he must perform. No matter the toll or the outcome. To the gang of bullies Richard’s name alone elicits a tangible sense of dread. So much so that when he shows up on their doorsteps wearing a gas mask and carrying an axe they go into panic mode.
Unlike Meadows’ earlier droll comedies, Dead Man’s Shoes is an exercise in violence. This is not Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, or Sin City – this is back street England’s bad boys who are headed down a one-way street that’s bound to dead end. They are shallow human beings with a sense of decency or responsibility among the lot of them. When Richard despises them, we are in full agreement, and accept his actions as the consequence of their actions.
The very capable Considine is strong here, both restrained yet fierce, sad and remorseful, but hungry for blood.
Ultimately, Dead Man’s Shoes is as thought-provoking as it is an homage to the revenge film. If you enjoy some intelligence with your action, I can only recommend Dead Man’s Shoes as a must see.