Dead Man's Shoes (2006)
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Richard has returned to a small North England town to exact revenge in the name of his mentally challenged brother, Anthony. His targets are small group of drug-pushers and half-wit drug dealers. Richard makes his presence known to his soon-to-be victims as soon as he gets into town, and makes it quite clear that he is not leaving. The group, who basically sh*t themselves when they all realize he is "Anthony's brother", make the rash decision that they'll have to kill Richard. But Richard, who is cold, calculating and some military experience, waits patiently to make his next move as the lowlifes scrounge for weapons and something that resembles a plan.
Bad revenge thrillers are churned out the world over year after year. Most share a common thread of undeveloped characters, poor plot points and poor overall filmmaking. It takes a special breed though, to make a boring revenge thriller. Director Shane Meadows, working from a script by Paddy Considine, who plays Richard, is such a breed. Even taking into consideration the dramatic film styles of the UK, which generally take time to move the plot along and develop their characters, this is boring, boring, boring.
Meadows can't decide here if he is making a horror flick, a character-study drama, a bumbling criminal comedy, or a psychological thriller. The film contains elements of all of these, yet fails to pull off any of them successfully. Scenes that should be suspenseful, where you are not sure where Richard is and if someone is about to be killed, come off as purely amateur. The film also spends way too much time with the criminals, watching them get stoned, fooling around, generally coming off as a bunch of harmless thugs. And any sense of pacing or build up is completely destroyed as the camera follows Richard walking... through fields... for minutes at a time.
The film unfolds as it spends time in the present and via flashback, showing what the petty dope addicts do to Anthony in Super-8 style grainy black and white footage. What we are shown for a majority of the film does not constitute the murder of seven people. Sure, they all deserved a major ass-kicking for what they did, but none of them deserved to die. And it is within this context that the film's ending-twist should be able to be deciphered within the first twenty minutes of the movie by anyone that completely paying attention. The saving grace of the film could have been the death sequences, but even these are a let down. One would think that there's going to be some intense bloodletting considering Richard's choice of an army parka and gasmask as his outfit, but no, that is certainly not the case.
To his credit, Paddy Considine does a solid job portraying Richard. His attempt to channel DeNiro's Travis Bickle or perhaps even the FIRST BLOOD version of John Rambo is successful, and certainly the scenes involving Considine are the best of the film. However, the rest of the cast, who shouldn't have been allowed to rise above background work in Danny Boyle films, perform with so little conviction that Considine can't help but look good when compared to them. And for anyone without a keen ear that can understand thick British accents, half of the dialog is lost in a jumbled mess. Some of the film's more subtle (and probably key) revelations are missed because of this.
DEAD MAN'S SHOES had to potential to find greatness amongst the bleak and dreary cinema that Brits pull off so successfully. But in the end, Meadows didn't just drop the ball, he had it in his hand and decided to throw it away. So don't be fooled by the cool poster, don't believe the unfathomable high rating on IMDB, and whatever you do just don't bother.
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