This is one of the most interesting movies you will ever see.
I wish director Shane Meadows would have delved a bit more deeply into his past as a skinhead.
I actually reviewed Dead Man's Shoes when it played theatrically, so it was kind of interesting getting to revisit it again on DVD. While I felt that this movie was flawed, it stayed with me to the point that I am glad to have it in my collection. I feel that by having it on tap to watch and rewatch, I can possibly help make better sense of it or, maybe just grow to appreciate all the performances more than I already do.
This movie follows Richard (Paddy Considine) who has come home from the service with one goal, to kill the men that hurt his brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell). The story is as simple as that, and once the killing starts things become even simpler. Those expecting a long build up where Richard joins up with Anthony's old "friends" and then turns on them, might be disheartened by how quickly and easily Richard does his work. What makes this even more frightening is that Richard isn't a superhero. He isn't a spirit come back from the dead to collect a toll for his brother. He is a severely tortured man who is fueled by pain and hatred.
The story, the acting and the style of this movie all combine to make Dead Man's Shoes a film that deserves many viewings.
I got the distinct impression that Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine and Mark Herbert had been drinking before they did this audio track. Either that, or they're just really good friends having a fun time. They all seem to talk about the same subjects and there really is no leader in the discussion. It turns out Shane Meadows made this movie to get back to the filmmaking these guys original did together (Considine co-wrote this film with Meadows). He talks about establishing the bond between Anthony and Richard, and then they all muse on how various actors were cast as they come on screen. Paddy Considine offers some thoughtful insights on how he prepared to play this role.
In Shane's Shoes
This was the most interesting part of the Extra Features in my opinion. I found the origins of this film to be quite interesting. Apparently, director Shane Meadows used to be skinhead. He tells the story of going over to a guys house with a friend to beat him up, and before it happens they encounter this guy's sister who has down syndrome. Shane's "friend" still beat the guy up (Shane had egged him on before he saw the guy's sister), but then afterwards the friend made sure that the person he thumped was okay. I just found Meadows' storytelling ability to be top notch, and I really feel I learned something about him here.
Alternate Ending/Deleted Scene
Truthfully, this Alternate Ending just seems like it's bit longer than the original one. Not that this is bad or anything, I was just wondering how else this film could have ended? I could pontificate on that but I don't wish to spoil this film for the people who haven't seen it. I also grouped this with the Deleted Scene because it wasn't taken out, so much as this is just a longer version of one of the first killings in the film. I am glad that it ended up in the movie how it was, because this version was too moody for my tastes.
Widescreen - 1.78:1 (16x9). There is a sparseness to this movie's look but it doesn't seem like it was made on a budget. Shane Meadows has shot everything in overcast conditions so right away everything takes on a drab tone. There really isn't a moment where things get better for any of the characters, everything just seems to become more and more ominous. The quality on this DVD is a lot better than when I was given the first screener to review. Overall, Director of Photography Danny Cohen has really captured a mood here without being given to moody artifice.
Dolby Digital. I will admit that I had a bit of a hard time with understanding everything these characters were saying at first. They just have such thick accents and that isn't something I hear all the time. Once I just settled in and got reacquainted with the story, eventually everything became much easier to follow. I also liked that the soundtrack didn't get in the way and is never allowed to linger.
Richard is featured on this front cover wearing the regalia he donned in the movie, only I liked the arty black and red one sheet that was employed for the theatrical release better. The back portion features a collage of images from the film, a dead body, shotgun shells and an imagistic, silhouette of Considine with the sun above him. There is also a description of this movie, a Special Features listing, a cast list and technical specs.
I can't put my finger on it but this movie has really stayed in my brain since I first saw it. More to the point, specific scenes have stayed with me from Dead Man's Shoes. Some are from Richard killing the people, others are from the moments where we see Anthony being tortured, but the biggest one is the first moment when Richard comes back to town. It seems like he's just going to toy with the people who were mean to his brother. He's like Max Cady from Cape Fear. Then, right before the carnage begins, the bad guys meet with Richard to see if he really is the one messing with them. The exchange is subtle but the situation is determined in the first moments when Richard not only doesn't shake the main bad guy's hand, he admits to being exactly who they are looking for.
Overall, Dead Man's Shoes isn't for everybody, but director Shane Meadows' fans are going to love him for making this film.
Dead Man's Shoes was released September 29, 2004.