Dead Man's Shoes

Poised uneasily between slasher movie and kitchen-sink drama, writer-director Shane Meadows' remorseless story of retribution unfolds in a rural English town whose rot and rancor could be mistaken for picturesque decay, lying as it does in the shadow of rolling hills and a crumbling castle perched high above the rooftops. But neither Meadows nor cowriter...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Poised uneasily between slasher movie and kitchen-sink drama, writer-director Shane Meadows' remorseless story of retribution unfolds in a rural English town whose rot and rancor could be mistaken for picturesque decay, lying as it does in the shadow of rolling hills and a crumbling castle perched high above the rooftops. But neither Meadows nor cowriter Paul Fraser harbors any illusions about ruined bucolic beauty, and their notions of human nature owe more to STRAW DOGS and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE than heartwarming notions of twittering grannies and eccentric country squires. Richard (Paddy Considine) always looked out for his mentally handicapped brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbel), protecting him from bullies and keeping him out of trouble. But when Richard went into the army, Anthony fell in with a gang of local thugs who got their kicks tormenting him. Now Richard has returned to exact retribution. He sets up camp with Anthony in an abandoned farm at the edge of town, and he warms up his victims with some unnerving pranks: spooking the drug-addled Soz (Neil Bell) by gliding out of the darkness in a vintage gas mask and painting ringleader Sonny's (Gary Stretch) face with clown makeup while he sleeps. Then the bloodletting begins: Richard creeps into Gary's house and batters Gypsy John (George Newton) to death in the bathroom, putting the others on notice that their days are numbered. Unlike a conventional bogeyman, Richard isn't secretive or elusive: He tells his victims-to-be who he is, what he plans to do and where they can find him. But their casual brutishness is no match for his remorseless determination to make them pay, even undermined as it is by self-loathing — he knows his war on monsters has made him into one. As Richard continues to pick off his brother's persecutors, the reasons for his rage are laid out in a series of flashbacks in which Sonny and the others amuse themselves by getting Anthony high on crack and LSD, teasing him mercilessly and subjecting him to sexual abuse. Meadows' loose trilogy of films set in the Midlands region where he was raised began with the gritty coming-of-age story A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS (1999) — Considine's movie debut — and continued in the loopy romantic comedy ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE MIDLANDS (2002). This revenger's tale brings it to a darkly downbeat conclusion. Though the story is formulaic, the bleakly naturalistic performances give it an uncomfortable sting.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Poised uneasily between slasher movie and kitchen-sink drama, writer-director Shane Meadows' remorseless story of retribution unfolds in a rural English town whose rot and rancor could be mistaken for picturesque decay, lying as it does in the shadow of ro… (more)

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