Revenge in the Meadows
There have been a lot of revenge movies over the years, many of which have focused on the horror and violence of a person looking for justice. But there are those revenge movies which whilst delivering horror and violence try to be a bit more; they try to give reasoning and depth rather than just nasty murder. One such movie is Shane Meadows' "Dead Man's Shoes" a lesser known movie which deserves to be better known because it manages to provide the terror of revenge combined with a simple but decent story and done so in a compelling manner. It also features one hell of a performance from Paddy Considine who gives us this brother, this unsettling man who goes from calm to psycho in a blink of an eye but it is controlled psycho which makes it all the more unnerving.
Having returned home from military duty Richard (Paddy Considine - In America) is looking for revenge, he is after the men who bullied and tormented his brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) while he was gone, especially as Anthony with his slow mind and learning difficulties was easy prey for them. But Richard is in no hurry to get revenge or at least bring it to its deadly end because those he are after don't deserve swift justice, they deserve to be made to suffer and that is exactly what he plans to do, make them suffer.
"Dead Man's Shoes" starts in a very low key manner, we watch Richard walking across a field, his kitbag slung over his shoulder as he makes it to an abandoned farm he is going to make home, his brother Anthony walking behind him. And that low key makes it unsettling because we are not entirely sure what is going on especially when we see Richard's face, his eyes showing the rage that his calm bearded face disguises. It's even more unsettling when we see him confront drug dealer Herbie, staring at him till Herbie has a go at him and then in the midst of acting humble snaps back with a volatile outburst. It grabs your attention and makes you very aware that Richard is a man not afraid of anyone and a man who is going to get revenge his way.
This is where "Dead Man's Shoes" stands out from so many revenge movies because it starts with Richard intimidating the men he is after, be it a sudden threat or just making it known that he is after them and is not afraid. It's not so much that he toys with them but makes them suffer by making them uneasy, unsure as to when he will strike. And then when he does strike it is brutal but this isn't glorification of violence this is a man who having made people suffer delivers death in various ways.
What adds to this is that we have the mystery of what these men actually did to Anthony which was so bad that would cause Richard to want to get terminal revenge. What happens is fed to us by a series of flashbacks as we watch this group of men bully the simple Anthony, making him do drugs and various things but always leaving us with the element of what else. We learn what else in one of the movies twists but it is not the only one because we also get a further twist when it comes to Richard himself and the complexity of his own character.
This alone makes "Dead Man's Shoes" more interesting than your average run of the mill revenge movie and when you combine it with Shane Meadows low budget look makes it even more unsettling. The graininess of the image combined with the use of real locations and natural light makes it feel real rather than staged which then you add some adlibbing by the stars just adds to the eerie sense of authenticity. Some of it doesn't work and a drug scene feels a little too comical but the pay off is magnificent.
But the thing about "Dead Man's Shoes" is that whilst Shane Meadows does a brilliant job of directing it is Paddy Considine who makes it so captivating. Considine gives us basically a psycho, but one who is not prone to over the top drama but is always in control. The way he acts so calmly and so controlled only to snap it a blink of an eye makes Richard all the more unnerving especially when he does face to face confrontations with a psychotic smile plastered across his face. Considine's performance is not the only one which impresses and Toby Kebbell as Anthony is also impressive because of his sensitive portrayal of a boy who is slow minded.
What this all boils down to is that "Dead Man's Shoes" is an impressive, captivating revenge movie which whilst delivering the aspect of violence you expect delivers more by delivering build up to each of the moments as we watch Richard make those he is after psychologically suffer before killing them.