Dead Man's Shoes
R1 - America - Magnolia Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary & Noor Razzak (13th October 2006).
The Film

"God will forgive them. He'll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can't live with that."
I love revenge films. Love them. They take the base emotions that we all feel when our loved ones have been affected by forces beyond our control and allow us the visceral enjoyment of watching evil men get there comeuppance. Whatever way you want to look at it-vengeance, justice or revenge-we love to see people pay for their actions. Of course, we all differ on what punishment we think fits the crime.
In "Dead Man's Shoes", Richard (co-writer Paddy Considine) is a soldier returned home from service to a quiet little suburban village. He finds his autistic brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell), has been mocked, derided and abused during his absence by a group of drug fuelled men. Richard sets upon making these people pay for their actions in increasingly violent fashion.
The film, directed using free roaming hand held camera style by Shane Meadows, has a raw energy to it that keeps you interested throughout. Its bleak style keeps morbidly drawing you in as it reveals the circumstances behind what Richard is here to avenge. Meadows chooses to focus a lot of screen time on what the men are going through, instead of channelling the story from Richard's point of view. It's a risky gambit that is pulled off mainly, in my eyes, by Paddy Considine 's acting. Considine shows a sense of determination and single-minded that is rather captivating (especially in a few of the brief humorous moments), not to mention utterly believable. It is this sense of realism (in this case helped by the low budget) that produces the best from this film.
Realism, however, suffers quite a bit in attempts to show how effective Richard is. His ability to find the men he is searching for and always being ready inside their locked houses does not get any real explanation. In fact, Richard himself never really gets challenged. It almost falls into the trap of a horror movie, just knocking off the cast one-by-one. Although, in the end, the way it all goes down will probably surprise you. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about the film as a whole.
Another thing that hinders the film is the accents. Just a minor quibble but if you have any trouble understanding small town Irish/English accents then you might be in trouble. I found myself rewinding to catch what I'd missed at least every ten minutes.
There were also some curious music choices. Scored very much like many low budget films, there was much piano and violins. Something just was not right here, as the piano tended to intrude on the scene when it didn't seem necessary. At times it fitted quite well though. Really hit and miss. All in all, I enjoyed this film. It's not revolutionary by any stretch but it is not just a simple, predictable little film. I may have needed to rewind to hear dialogue I missed but I still did it because I was honestly invested in the story. "Dead Man's Shoes" is a bleak tale that is acted well above par and delivers what it promises. From the opening lines (printed above-and is my new favourite opening line of the year) to a bloody conclusion, if you like this type of film you can do far worse than to walk in "Dead Man's Shoes".

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic transfer is very good considering the film was shot on 16mm and has been blown up to 35mm for this transfer. Parts of the film also includes some super 8mm footage which is washed out and damaged however that is an intentional look, as well as some black and white graded footage to also appear grainy and also damaged. Otherwise the transfer presents color vividly and blacks are deep although the image is at time soft and there were instances of edge-enhancement it's still an acceptable quality for a 16mm blow up.

Audio

A single audio track is included in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and although there is some surround activity I did find it rather limiting and the majority of the sound was directed towards the front speakers. This is not an effects heavy film but some well balanced atmospheric surrounds go a long way. The dialogue is generally clear the only problem I did have was with some thick accents, it was times like these I wished Magnolia had included some English subtitles.
Optional subtitles are also included in Spanish only.

Extras

Magnolia Home Entertainment have included some of the extras seen on the UK region 2 release, these include an audio commentary, a featurette, the film's alternate ending plus a single deleted scene as well as a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

An audio commentary by writer/director Shane Meadows, producer Mark Herbert and co-writer/actor Paddy Considine. The guys cover how the film concept came about as well as coming together to make films "like they used to in the old days" as Considine and Meadows had previously collaborated on other projects. They discuss the script and how they developed the characters, plot elements and the changes the script underwent before it was ready for shooting. Director Meadows comments on some of the visual elements of the film including the inter cutting of super 8mm footage into the film as well as how certain scenes came together. The film was shot in just three weeks and the participants all share they various challenges faced on such a soft film shoot as they offer up some great behind-the-scenes trivia.

"In Shane's Shoes" is a featurette that runs for 23 minutes 58 seconds. This is a look into the director's past and how that has reflected itself in this film. Mainly how making this allowed Meadows to alleviated a lot of guilt built up over the years, he also comments on the themes of the film as well as a look behind-the-scenes while filming among other things.

Following that is the film's alternate ending that runs for 8 minutes 35 seconds, in this alternate version, which is almost like the one currently in the film. Richard argues momentarily with his brother that he can't actually go through the last killing in this less ambiguous version that was rightly dropped, as it's clearly a weaker ending than the one used.

A single deleted scene is also included, "First Murder Scene" which is an extended take that runs for 3 minutes 10 seconds, is basically exactly as described, the first murder that Richard commits with the axe is seen here in a slightly extended version.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers, these are all start-up previews and can be skipped, they are for:

- "The Host" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge" which runs for 1 minute 4 seconds.
- "District B13" which runs for 1 minute 45 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B

 


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