Dead Man’s Shoes

By  · Published on August 30th, 2006

Release Date: September 5, 2006

There is nothing that I love more than the movie theater experience; the smell of popcorn, the overpriced sodas whose astronomical size is heightened by spending on a quarter more, and the feel of loving (or loathing) a new film with a group of strangers. But as much as I enjoy being out in the world, seeing movies as the come out, I do still have great affection for being at home and discovering a film that I would not previously have been able to enjoy. That is the beauty of the DVD, the fact that films whose theatrical release is not wide enough, or critically acclaimed enough can get a second chance, or a first chance in the case of some foreign films. It allows a person to be more well rounded in their film experience, and that is a beautiful thing.

One such discovery that I made very recently was a British film that has been getting a lot of Press internationally, but not quite enough here in the states. The film, Dead Man’s Shoes is directed by native Brit Shane Meadows. It stars the very up and coming, and rightfully so, actor Paddy Considine as Richard, a disaffected soldier who has returned to his home town to seek revenge upon 6 local bullies who had terrorized his mentally handicapped younger brother, Anthony. He employs a series of scare tactics, then cuts the bullies down to size one by one in a brutally terrifying manner. To be honest, it sounded like a great film to watch over dinner.

So with a self prepared chicken dinner, pause for proud moment for mom, as I have learned to cook a proper meal, and a glass of wine, I sat down to screen Dead Man’s Shoes in the comfort of my own home. The film opens in flashback style as the credits role, painting a picture of two brothers who were inseparable in their youth, setting up the brotherly love that would ultimately lead to the very heinous acts later on. The director does a very good job in the beginning of building the story, which is greatly appreciated by the viewer later, as the middle and end of the movie can seem fairly ambiguous at times. The flashback style is carried throughout the movie, and works very well in methodically recreating the horror that was experienced by young Anthony at the hands of the drugged up bad guys.

After the opening credits and the flashbacks have subsided, we are introduced to Paddy Considine as Richard, whose performance above all else carries the film. His cold, focused demeanor throughout the moments of violence painted the picture of a man who was deeply affected by what happened to his brother, yet conflicted about his response. The most impressive thing about his performance is how precisely he allows Richard’s character to unfold, up to a very emotional ending. Be it superior acting or a well written script, the character of Richard is almost a mystery right up to the end of the film, and it keeps us all locked into the story.

The film was advertised as being very intense and terrifying, but I found it to be something else. It was very violent and unnerving, but it was not quite as intense as I had expected. Rather, the genius of this film is in how the violence is very slow and methodical, mirroring the demeanor of its main character. In the end, whether you felt it to be intense like some or methodical, as I did, the film is terrifying, but more for its psychological effect than its outward gore. By the end of my screening of this film, my heart was pounding, but more because of the disturbing nature of the film rather than the intensity of the plot.

But even though the film develops very slowly, it is still extremely captivating. Paddy Condisine’s performance is exceptional in its lack of “over acting,” and Shane Meadows has shown himself to be more than just a capable director, but someone to keep an eye on. The story may not appeal to everyone, and some are made very squeamish by graphic violence, but Dead Man’s Shoes does earn my recommendation. It is a thoroughly thought provoking film that will ultimately scare the hell out of you, if that’s what you are looking for.

The Upside: The film is unnerving as all hell, it will leave your heart pounding in the end, mostly thanks to a stellar performance from Paddy Considine.

The Downside: The film takes a while to develop, and is not as intense as expected.

On the Side: Richard breaks into the flat where the bullies live and 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.

Film Grade: B

DVD Grade: C
The DVD includes a sparse amount of special features, including audio commentary from Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine and Producer Mark Herbert; a introspective featurette about director Shane Meadows; a single deleted scene and an alternate ending. But for its lack of extras, the DVD does display the film well and is definitely worth a look.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)