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May 5, 2008 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Class Film: Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) is a seminal piece of British cinema. Co-written by its star Paddy Considine and directed by Shane Meadows – creator of the cult classic A Room for Romeo Brass, and the critically acclaimed This is England – it beautifully details notions of revenge, platonic love and the stagnant oppressiveness of rural England.

The narrative follows Richard (Paddy Considine) an ex-army soldier who returns to his home village. Once there he starts to enact various acts of revenge against a small clique of drug dealers and thugs, led by the tyrannical Sonny (Gary Stretch) who regularly used to abuse and torment Anthony – Richard’s intellectually handicapped younger brother. Richard’s campaign of suburban terrorism begins in earnest and the streets (or at least houses) literally flow with blood.

The acting is fantastic, as is the dialogue. Much of this can be attributed to Paddy Considine, who has a long history of working with Shane Meadows – Considine collaborated and starred in Meadows’ earlier work “A Room for Romeo Brass”. Whilst Considine had previously perfected the art of the playing the slightly manic but amicable buffoon (such as Morel in Romeo Brass) in Dead Man’s Shoes, Considine is able to masterfully craft an extremely subtle but underlying nastiness to Richard’s character. Considine’s humour however is not lost amid the tension of the script and the plot. It would be wrong to call this film a comedy, but certain plot twists and scenes definitely accrue a sardonic edge, which one cannot help but chuckle at. Perhaps it is my own inner twisted morality, but I see something deliciously ironic in the way Richard stealthily overdoses the drug dealers by spiking their teapot when they aren’t looking.

Aside from the stylistic manner in which this film is presented it does contain a powerful message. It’s nice to see a film take issues like revenge seriously and give it a large degree of symbolic weight. Unlike typical Hollywood blockbusters such as Kill Bill that tend to focus more on the “shoot first – fill in the plot holes later” style of narrative, or the filthy white liberal guilt of the morality of what is essentially our most primal emotion (think Death Wish) – Dead Man’s Shoes refreshingly doesn’t give a shit. Stylistically, the film is able to skillfully rely on interesting flashbacks, which helpfully guide the viewers’ understanding of why Richard is so determined in doing what he does – because no revenge flick is complete without a shocking and scandalous back-story.

I’ve always been a fan of Meadows’ filmmaking. His cinematography is fucking excellent. The feeling of tangible claustrophobia that he is able to create using close-ups and dollies inside a rural village house is fantastic. It’s even more impressive when he is able to create this very feeling in the streets as well. Meadows has also always used long crane and aerial shots for great symbolic effect. The final scene of the film, where a crane shot seamlessly flows into an aerial flyover of the ‘quaint’ village, is absolutely mesmerizing.

Dead Man’s Shoes is not a terribly sad film, neither is it a violent one compared to other revenge flicks. But there’s something powerful about the way this film is able to keep you on the edge of your seat, forcing you to be both disgusted and encouraging of Richard’s violent last crusade. This is a film that should be viewed by any fan of British cinema – or any film lover at all.


About the Author ()

Conrad is a very grumpy boy. When he was little he had a curl in the middle of his forehead. When he was good, he was moderately good, but when he was mean he was HORRID. He likes guns, bombs and shooting doves. He can often be found reading books about Mussolini and tank warfare. His greatest dream is to invent an eighteen foot high mechanical spider, which has an antimatter lazer attached to its back.

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