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UK 2004
Directed by
Shane Meadows
86 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Dead Man's Shoes

Just as his previous film Once Upon A Time in the Midlands (2003) hybridized British social realism with the Spaghetti Western so with Dead Man's Shoes Shane Meadows takes the revenge movie format of the Kill Bill stripe (Vol.1 of which came out in 2003, Vol 2. In 2004) and transposes it to the drab milieu of his Midlands stamping ground. Whilst done with a certain amount of style as it maps out the achronological narrative, like Tarantino’s film, albeit in a more low-key way, it doesn’t amount to much.

Paddy Considine who co-wrote the film with Meadows, takes the lead as Richard, an ex-soldier returned to his hometown, seeks out a gaggle of low-lives who, we understand, have done something heinous to Richard’s younger brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell) while Richard was away. What that is we don’t initially know but as the story unfolds by juxtaposing Richard’s present actions with flashbacks which are shot in grainy black and white we learn why he is bent on bloody revenge.

It would be going too far to categorize Dead Man’s Shoes as a black comedy but Meadows injects humour into the essentially grim story by making the low-lives prize dimwits who are slavishly devoted to their overlord, Sonny (Gary Stretch) a would-be hardman who likes to wear clown makeup and is emotionally and sexually unstable. Whilst this does result in some amusing moments the overall tone is serious and the deadening brutality of the lower reaches of English society is well brought home. The historically entrenched spiritual oppression of such is resonantly suggested by the presence of a gutted medieval castle that sits on a hill overlooking the town and which becomes the centrepiece of the film’s denoument as Arvo Pärt's De Profundis soars on the soundtrack.




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