Thursday, December 11, 2008

#118: Dead Man's Shoes


Dead Man's Shoes
Directed by Shane Meadows
Written by Paddy Considine, Shane Meadows and Paul Fraser
Released October 1, 2004

"God will forgive them. He'll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can't live with that."

And so begins Dead Man's Shoes, a dark, dour and pretty bad ass revenge flick that combines Death Wish with just a hint each of Friday the 13th and The Sixth Sense. None of this comparison will make sense until you've seen the entire movie, but it's all pretty apt.

Paddy Considine (whose biggest role prior to this was probably as Joy Division's manager in 24 Hour Party People, though he has appeared in a handful of recognizable films) absolutely owns in a story he co-wrote with director Shane Meadows about a soldier named Richard who has returned home to avenge the abuse of his mentally disabled brother at the hands of a gang of drug dealers and thugs.

As Richard methodically doles out his revenge, we gradually learn details - via black & white flashbacks - of his brother's ordeal. As we learn more about the teasings and beatings, Richard's punishments gradually become more righteous.

Meadows makes great use of an offbeat soundtrack that features Smog, Calexico, Danger Mouse, Will Oldham, Aphex Twin, M. Ward and more. It's one of those rare movies that uses well-chosen popular music seamlessly, rather than being cut to look like a music video that has been crammed into the middle of a story.

The only thing a bit off for me was the melodramatic ending, where a major character makes a major decision that I'm just not sure I completely believe. Perhaps if I understood more about the sadness or pain going on inside this person, I could understand this choice, but from where I was sitting, it definitely seemed like a convenient way to end the film rather than a believable choice that a real human would make.

Regardless, I was immediately taken in by Dead Man's Shoes, a pretty basic film with a simple plot that was easily elevated above genre dreck like the Death Sentence by the acting and the craft put into it. I will be disappointed if Considine doesn't get more large roles like this in the future. Sure, he might have to keep writing them for himself, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

For more on Dead Man's Shoes:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD.

The Dead Man's Shoes trailer:

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