2004’s Dead Man’s Shoes from director Shane Meadows (This Is England, The Virtues) is returning to cinema screens in the UK. As well as nationwide screenings, Dead Man’s Shoes will also be shown as part of the BFI Southbank’s ‘Acting Hard’ season on 12th September which will also include Shane Meadows for a Q&A session.
Dead Man’s Shoes is a relatively simple revenge story set in a small town called Matlock in the Peak District in Northern England. What makes this near twenty year old movie stand out and makes it worth rewatching on the big screen is the central character. It’s elevated into a brutal tour-de-force by the performance of Paddy Considine (Child 44, The World’s End) as ex-soldier Richard.
Richard has returned to his home town to avenge the things that were done to his brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell – Fantastic Four, RocknRolla), who suffers from a learning disability. Richard discovers that Anthony was abused by a local pack of drug dealers and low lifes, and sets out to ensure that none of them get away with it. As he puts it “God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.” Richard uses his military training to intimidate and terrify the gang, picking them off one by one even as he demonstrates to the others that none of them are safe, not even if they try to escape his vengeance by fleeing the town.
Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, there’s barely a dull moment in the film. Though if we were nit-picking there is some occasionally very muddy dialogue as the cast has a habit of yelling and talking over each other in more than one scene. Probably to be expected when you’ve just woken up to find someone has snuck into your house in the dead of night and spray painted “Knob” on the back of your terribly expensive suit jacket.
Paddy Considine’s Richard is the star and heart of the film. He’s funny and compassionate and utterly terrifying by turns. One moment he’s your best mate, the next he’s slipping a knife between your ribs because, well, you really shouldn’t have messed with his brother.
When the film first came out many critics of the day compared his performance to DeNiro‘s iconic turn as Travis Bickle in Scorsese‘s masterpiece neo-noir film, Taxi Driver. Heady company, indeed. Are the comparisons deserved? Paddy certainly brings just as much unhinged intensity to his performance as DeNiro did. There are also some parallels between the two in their stance on the wickedness of the world, though Richard is nowhere near as indiscriminate as Travis in his choice of targets. Both are out to punish the wicked, but while Travis sees wickedness everywhere, Richard is only concerned with those who have personally wronged him and his family.
Dead Man’s Shoes is reminiscent of other films such as A Bad Day in the Cut and Bull, these taut, intense stories of one man out for revenge, and fans of this sort of gritty, Northern-flavoured slice of violence should absolutely take the opportunity to see Richard’s fury unravel on the big screen.
Dead Man’s Shoes is in cinemas on 15th September.