Dead Man’s Shoes

Director: Shane Meadows.
Screenplay: Paddy Considine, Shane Meadows.
Starring: Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell, Stuart Wolfenden, Neil Bell, Paul Sadot, Seamus O’Neill, Joe Hartley, Paul Hurstfield, Emily Aston, George Newton, Craig Considine, Matt Considine, Andrew Shim.

“You! You were supposed to be a monster. Now I’m the fucking beast. There’s blood on my hands, from what you made me do”

Five years after their first collaboration on 1999’s A Room for Romeo Brass, Paddy Considine and Shane Meadows penned a script together about some of the memories and experiences they remembered from their working-class backgrounds. Although they were obviously embellished, the result led to Dead Man’s Shoes – a visceral and uncompromising tale of vengeance that became an instant cult hit and still stands as some of the best work they’ve ever produced.

Plot: Disaffected soldier Richard (Paddy Considine) returns from military service to his home town in the Midlands with revenge on his mind. While he was away, local thugs and bullies physically and psychologically tortured his mentally challenged brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) and Richard intends to make them pay. At first, he toys with the gang and sets out to just frighten them but it’s not long before he steps up his military guerilla tactics to ruthlessly pick each of them off, one by one.

Going by the title and the film poster, I remember my first impression of Dead Man’s Shoes being one of a cheap budget slasher. As a result, I avoided it for a few years until I could no longer ignore the positive word-of-mouth that I had been hearing or the rising reputation of its director, Shane Meadows. To be fair, it’s a classic case of never judging a book by its cover as it turned out to, not only, be different from my expectations but it surpassed them. Meadows’ dark, revenge thriller benefits from his fly-on-the-wall and authentic style of storytelling that comfortably combines the kitchen-sink drama’s of Ken Loach with the snare and disturbing elements of horror that Ben Wheatley became known for. For many, Shane Meadows is a filmmaker that has yet to be uncovered but his most well known film This Is England (and it’s resulting TV mini-series’) have rightly gained a lot of critical appreciation but it’s probably fair to say that he hasn’t quite achieved any international recognition. Either way, Meadows always strikes me as a filmmaker that is most comfortable on his own patch and regardless of recognition, I wouldn’t change that. His films always have such a genuine ability to capture working-class lifestyles – much like the aforementioned Loach or Mike Leigh. In fact, it’s this approach – when combined with a depraved and violent narrative arc – that makes Dead Man’s Shoes all the more effective and chilling. The setting, the mood and the characters all feel authentic and Meadows draws some excellent performances from the entire cast, regardless of how small their role. That said, there are three particular performances that really stand out; former British boxer Gary Stretch is hugely effective as the gang’s shady leader while Toby Kebbell is remarkably good at capturing the young innocent with learning disabilities that’s the catalyst for the mayhem that ensues. All in all, however, the film belongs to Paddy Considine with his dynamic intensity echoing a Taxi Driver era DeNiro. One minute he’s tender and loving, the next he’s a vengeful and explosive maniac and the role provides Considine the opportunity to express his range to full effect.

Although the initial premise may seem a little far-fetched, the delivery of it is certainly not. This is raw and unflinching filmmaking that has a palpable feeling of dread and danger throughout its entirety. It’s also not as simple as the vigilante premise would suggest. Meadows toys with our perspective of sympathy by allowing us to get close to the three-dimensional characters and never makes any black-and-white judgements. It’s this approach that brings a genuine sense of unpredictability in how the film plays out.

A dark, compelling and thoroughly satisfying thriller that benefits from measured pacing, a solid cast and a searing central performance from the hugely talented Considine. Shane Meadows is one the boldest English directors working at present and this is arguably his best film to date. What may seem like a formulaic revenge story results in a complex psychological parable that packs a genuine punch.

Mark Walker

Trivia: When Richard breaks into the flat he spray paints “Cheyne Stoking” on the wall. In very sick patients, this is the name of the breathing pattern that is a sign of impending death.

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11 Responses to “Dead Man’s Shoes”

  1. […] via Dead Man’s Shoes — MARKED MOVIES […]

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  2. Oh, you’ve hooked me, Mark. Will be on the look out for this one, surely. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really solid film, Michael. I’d imagine it hasn’t done all that well across the pond? It’s quite the cult movie over here and after a recent rewatch it’s as great as I remembered it. Please do check it out. It’s worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like a great opportunity for me to get an even better feel for Paddy Considine. I think the only thing I remember him in is the latest Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy. I think he had a part in The Worlds End (?). Thanks for bringing this to my attention dude

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Considine was indeed in The Worlds End and Hot Fuzz, man. Such a versatile actor that can do both comedy and drama. It’s dramatic work that really stands out, though. I’d highly recommend this one. Considine is brilliant here and you should also check out his directorial debut Tyrannosaur. That’s another hard hitting film and I’m looking forward to Journeyman which is another film he’s recently directed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Excellent! Much appreciated for the suggestions.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No worries, man. Check out A Room For Romeo Brass as well but Dead Man’s Shoes is a great introduction to Considine. It’s absolutely perplexing that he’s not a bigger name – although he has been involved in some bigger releases like The Bourne Identity, Cinderella Man and Macbeth.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Damn, didn’t remember him from Cinderella Man. He might have played one of the dock workers? If im not mistaken. Which is probably exactly what I am. Lol

        Liked by 1 person

      • I really can’t remember if he was a dockworker. Probably, though. I just remember him as Russell Crowe’s pal. That said, these roles don’t do him justice. He’s an outstanding tour de force when given the opportunity. Dead Man’s Shoes do that!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A very disturbing film but it had me hooked. Definitely shows the brutality of revenge.

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  5. I’m very pleased to discover this site. I want to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!!

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    Liked by 1 person

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