Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Best British Films: 19. Dead Man's Shoes

Number 19 on The Observer's list of 25 top British films of the past 25 years is Dead Man's Shoes, a revenge movie from Shane Meadows. The movie follows a soldier, Richard, who returns to the small town in which he grew up to exact revenge on a gang of witless drug dealers who cruelly tormented his mentally disabled brother, Anthony.

"God will forgive them. I can't allow that," says Richard as the film begins. From the start, I was hypnotized by the story, completely engrossed in Richard's plan and his rage over what Anthony suffered at the hands of seven monstrous men. Paddy Considine owns the film, his Richard boiling with pain, guilt, and fury beneath a collected, almost stoic surface.

Richard uses extremely violent tactics - no doubt learned from the army - to dispatch his brother's torturers one by one. We're shown in flashbacks (black and white and grainy, like old film) what happened to Anthony, and a lot of time is spent with the gang who brutalized him. We see their guilt over what they did, and their fear as they realize Richard won't let them get away with it.

The film is formulaic at times, and possibly doesn't give enough of a window into Richard's anguish, spending so much time with the gang of thugs that our sympathy is almost misplaced. But the film is still an intense and intriguing look at loss, guilt, and hatred, with a rewarding end to Richard's grief-fueled quest for closure. ***/4


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