Movie Review by Dan Spiers
Starring: Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell, Emily Aston, Neil Bell
Director: Shane Meadows
DEAD MAN’S SHOES, directed by Shane Meadows (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE MIDLANDS) centres on an enigmatic loner, Richard (Paddy Considine) who returns to the town of his birth to avenge the maltreatment of his mentally handicapped brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell). The focus of his gunslinger eyes is a gang of petty criminals led by Sonny (Gary Stretch), who seem to hold sway in a lawless, rural village riddled with decay.
There are two interwoven narratives, one pursuing Richard’s bloody trail of revenge and the other, filmed in black and white, the abuse of his brother. The interaction of the gang, which feels improvised and authentic, provides a comedic foil to Richard’s depthless intensity. Throughout, Meadows revels in the glories of the Midland countryside, evidently delighting in placing purveyors of gangsta chic in incongruous locations.
Indeed, the gang drive through the countryside in an open-top Citroen 2 CV, wield weapons inexpertly and are, in fact, incompetent at everything they do. Opposite them stands Richard, an avenging beast pulsating with malevolence that strews the countryside with brutalized bodies, all in the name of brotherly love. He is everything the gang is not: sober, clinical and focused. As a consequence there is a distinct moral ambiguity that begs the question, where do your sympathies lie? Richard is the self appointed moral arbiter, but he’s tough to accept when elbow deep in another clown’s blood.
This is an emotionally turbulent ride, by turns grueling and rewarding. The structure of the movie is such that only in the dying moments do we understand the true scope of Richard’s motivation and in so doing are forced to re-evaluate what has gone before. What has gone before is sadistic abuse, the reminiscing of brothers, the butchering of bodies, and belly laughs. It is another stylish, thought provoking movie by Meadows and a valuable addition to an increasingly impressive canon of work.