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Looking Back: Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

To celebrate the release of The Girl With All The Gifts, we look at Paddy Considine’s best work – Dead Man’s Shoes. 

There is a major problem with British Actors these days; they are seriously underrated. Of course we have the BAFTAs and numerous TV shows. Yet if I went to the streets now and said the likes of Tim Roth or Toby Kebell, most, very wouldn’t know. This is a huge shame because Paddy Constantine, the star of this dramatic piece is perhaps one of the greatest actors we have. Combine his extraordinary talent with that of director Shane Meadows, who around the success of Once Upon A Time In The Midlands and This Is England knocked out this beauty of a film, (I just realised how British I’m sounding here,) and you have a damn near masterpiece of a revenge thriller film.

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Set in the sleepy town of Matlock (that’s up North for you Southerners,) Dead Man’s Shoes focus on Richard – a recently returned Army Mercenary. But all is not well with his arrival, as he soon discovers that his mentally ill brother Anthony has been abused, manipulated and tortured by a drug heavy gang whilst he was away.  Richard, already disaffected from the war is not one for being forgiving. Soon exacts his revenge on every single member who hurt his younger brother. Using guerrilla tactics, scare factors and picking off the gang members one by one, Richard sees himself as an Angel of Vengeance and protector to his little brother. But perhaps, Richard has skeletons in his closet too.

The acting in Dead Man’s Shoes is breath-taking. Considine is pure genius as the tortured and torturer Richard. Hebattles demons from the real gang members to the ones inside his head. Considine effortlessly brings, not only  a sense of humanity, but anger to the character. This is all done so  realistically that you will get  chills down your spine.  Not only does Considine do a fantastic job but Toby Kebbell does a sensitive portrayal of the mental handicapped Anthony. The two work brilliantly as the near child Anthony and the anguished Richard bounce off each other in their relationship.

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And the directing is great. Meadows slices together past clips with present in shockingly unique black and white style. Each abusers death is spliced with their own part in the torture as the shocking events play out. Almost like two stories that our parallel to each other, Dead Man’s Shoes narrative is astonishingly fresh and brilliantly done. Meadows writes a beautifully tragic story. Although the vengence film has been done before, Meadows adds to it and creates so many twists and turns that culminates to the sad and shocking finale of the film. The lines and the story bring about so many emotions without chucking them at you in forced stereotypes. Instead, the characters are delicately making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

Dead Man’s Shoes isn’t everyone’s cup of tea: It is heavily violent with disturbing scenes.

But despite this, Dead Man’s Shoes is heartbreaking. It is a tale about brotherly love and the lengths we will go to protect a family. Richard is the part of us we don’t like to admit is there but we know exists. Dead Man’s Shoes is our darkest fantasies in times of trouble. The sorrow filled end will leave you judging yourself and the things you do to your fellow human being. It is a genius script and incredible look into the human psyche. Terrifyingly beautiful, it is the best of British cinema.


The Girl With All The Gifts is out today. 

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