The scarily talented Paddy Considine is just plain scary as a soldier who returns to his Derbyshire village hell-bent on revenge, in 2004’s Dead Man’s Shoes.
The first feature from Sheffield-based Warp Films, this grizzly revenge thriller is characterised by Shane Meadows’ effective combination of British realism and visceral qualities, like a pot of tea laced with drugs. Moments are grimly funny while the rest is simply grim, with sickening violence, a smartly unravelling backstory and a naturalistic yet powerful script, co-written by Considine. I told you he was scarily talented, and he takes on the frightening lead role with intimidating conviction, a painful madness in his eyes behind the now iconic gas mask.
The story and colour palette are all shades of grey, a phrase which has been ruined by a popular romance novel. This dramatic complexity elevates the film from its exploitation roots and invites you into this man’s mind, forcing the audience to confront their own complicity and complacency. A knot of sickness grows in your stomach for 90 minutes as the realistic violence makes monsters of all involved. Coupled with Danny Cohen’s (not that one) cinematography, Meadows’ poetic direction has a hauntingly mesmeric effect, the photogenic Derbyshire countryside turning black with tragedy.
British crime cinema has come a long way since Guy Ritchie’s stylised capers, fleshed out with intelligent substance by the likes of Shane Meadows, Danny Boyle and Ben Wheatley. Ten years on from the film’s release, Dead Man’s Shoes remains a gritty and imposing revenge flick, whose influence is plain to see in movies as recent as Blue Ruin. By no means easy viewing but grimly compelling nonetheless, it’s a film that stands angrily in a gas mask and beckons you to stand in these dead man’s shoes.