Shane Meadow’s Dead Man’s Shoes is a gritty, real thriller set in central England. The film, made before Meadow’s This Is England, focuses on the lowlifes of a small town and how their life turns upside down following the return of Anthony’s brother, Richard (Paddy Considine). Richard wants revenge for what they did to Anthony, picking them off one by one in this disturbing piece of filmmaking.
Richard is brilliantly portrayed by Considine. He is a disturbed man who is not only pyschopathic but also remorseful. The final interchange of dialogue with him and another character is probably the best part of the film. In this scene, you see the real Richard, a guilt-ridden man who seeks one final thing. Considine plays Richard like a man who doesn’t fear death, a man who doesn’t really care about the outcomes.
Other characters to note include Anthony (Tony Kebbell) a mentally disabled man who is the reason why Richard seeks revenge. The events as to why Richard wants revenge are shown in snippets until the final, shocking reveal. The final reveal also shows Anthony’s path in the film.
The mixture of druggies and drug dealers are led by Sonny (Gary Stretch). Sonny resembles Sonny from the Godfather, and acts like him too. He is a no frills drug dealer, not afraid to use violence to get his needs. The showdown between him and Richard is no Kill Bill, just more natural and fits the film perfectly for what it should be.
Meadows directs the film using the backdrop of the bleak town, Matlock, as his canvas. The characters themselves add to the film, making the film more real than recorded. Meadows doesn’t use excessive violence in the film, however, the bits of violence seen in the film are both disturbing and believable. It resembles real life, from Meadows own experiences as a young boy growing up in the early 80s, making it more personal and believable.
There are some notable scenes including the image of Richard in a gas mask which is both disturbing and iconic. I also liked the scene in which the camera stops outside the door of the drug dealers room, observing through a window. It makes you feel like an observer into this horrific reality. Meadows’ filmmaking drags you into this brutal story of redemption. Richard’s acts of revenge mirrors the previous events on Anthony, not wholly mirrored, but you can still see the resemblance.
Dead Man’s Shoes is a gripping story with a personal touch from Meadows. The acting is superb and the whole film feels natural for it. The final scene with Considine is chilling and stays long in the mind. ‘You were supposed to be the monster – now I’m the fucking beast…’