Reviewed by Alex Lagerwey. Viewed 02/01/2010
I will be the first to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the thriller film genre. My stomach can handle shiploads of gore and blood, severed limbs, rotting flesh, be it life-like realism or over the top fake. But when it comes to psychological thrillers that play with your mind, I usually pass. Firstly because they scare the shit out of me and secondly because I don’t want to be seen as a weakling who can’t handle a bit of hide and seek.
So when I was told about Dead Man’s Shoes, I was a little apprehensive.I really shouldn’t have been worried as, in no uncertain terms, the film kicks arse.
The lead and co-writer of the film Paddy Considine has long been an actor I’ve read or heard about, but failed to see any of his work. I remember reading Total Film magazine a few years ago which had a massive feature on him, declaring him one of the greatest British actors of the decade. Up until that point I had only seen him in The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass’ sequel to The Bourne Identity starring Matt Damon where Considine plays a reporter who has stumbled across some valuable information and pays the price for it. His role was small, memorable, however not exactly mind-blowing. After that I saw him in Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar White’s second film together in their supposed ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ where he plays a smart-arse detective. From this I assumed he was merely a comedic actor and wondered what all the hype was about.
I sit here now after having just seen Dead Man’s Shoes, eating my words. Co-written and directed by Shane Meadows, director of This Is England, the film tells the story of Richard, recently returned from the army with an as yet unexplained vendetta against a group of small time drug dealers and thugs, and his mentally disabled brother Anthony, who follows him around as he seeks out his revenge.
What makes this film so exciting to watch is the clever characterisation of steely Richard. Logically, he should be the bad guy of the picture, hunting down his victims, belittling and taunting them as he does so. Instead the narrative is inter-cut with a series of black and white flashbacks showing Anthony being placed in more and more compromising situations with the group of thugs. As Richard gets closer, our knowledge of the depravity of the drug-dealers increases. The majority of screen time is given to the drug dealers who are at once erratic, childish and in way over their heads, the complete opposite of Richard who, is calculated, focused and always in complete control.
The screenwriters use their slightly warped sense of humour to show Richard messing with the drug dealers minds, refusing to be intimidated turning from cocky, full of themselves ‘chavs’ to weeping, remorseful men who are pathetically terrified of their fates.
The ending is both satisfying and bitter-sweet. Considine shows his superb acting skills in the films emotional climax, as the audience watches him change from calculated hunter to accepting the inevitability of his actions. Considine has just wrapped filming on Blitz with Jason Statham playing a cop who is sent to track down a serial killer. And in a little bit of fangirl squeeing, will be appearing in Submarine, directed and written by Richard Ayoade (star of Mighty Boosh, I.T. Crowd and my own personal Jesus) playing another comedic role. Best New Year’s present ever!