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DVD Review: Dead Man’s Shoes

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Revenge is one of the most basic human emotions. People instantly relate to it and understand it, for the most part — as long as it’s motivated by feelings and situations they can sympathize with.

Revenge is also one of the key elements in storytelling. Books, comics, and movies all routinely use revenge as motivation for characters, both good and evil. Lex Luthor is motivated by the need for revenge against Superman and does evil things as a result. Batman is motivated by a need for revenge against criminals because his parents were killed at the hands of one. He does good things as a result.

Good and evil both spring forth from this highly emotional state. It’s up to the writer/creator to decide how it’s applied in the story. Many memorable characters, such as Captain Ahab of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, seen to be wholly made of that emotion.

Dead Man’s Shoes, directed by Shane Meadows, uses revenge as a motive to propel the characters through harsh events. The script was written by Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine, and Paul Fraser. Paddy Considine also stars as the main character, Richard, a young man who has returned from war to avenge his brother, Anthony, played by Tony Kebbell.

The film is shot on location in England’s Midlands. The scenes are beautiful, filled with trees and rolling hills around small towns of old, small buildings and houses. The music is lyrical and haunting.

As it turns out, the viewer is given most of the story at the beginning. Richard and Anthony were close as brothers even though Anthony had mental deficiencies. While Richard was away at war in the military, Anthony fell in with a group of drug users and sellers who took advantage of him.

Upon his return, Richard sets out on a trail of vengeance against the group. He terrorizes them at first, breaking into their homes and marking them while they sleep, letting them know he could have just as easily killed them.

I think the movie was well done but I have some reservations. While I liked the characters well enough, and I think the twist about Anthony was a good one that I didn’t expect, the actual physical action of the characters was definitely lacking. I didn’t get to watch Richard take action for the first hour of the film. I saw the results of it, but I didn’t see him doing those things.

In action films, most of the stars use martial arts or something flashy to really show off their destructive talents. Even though Richard is more of a blunt instrument, his violence was kept off-screen for too much of the movie, in my opinion. I wanted to see him taking on the gang, and making them pay for what they have done to his brother.

Also, I had a real problem with the audio portion of the disc. The accent is so thick, and the sound quality of the transfer somewhat lacking, that I couldn’t hear everything that was being said. Many times it sounded like the actors were mumbling their lines. I’m sure that wasn’t the case. I’m sure that you just need an ear trained for that dialect. I had to back up several times to replay a scene to get all of it. The movie will probably play really well in the Midlands because I feel certain Meadows is dead-on in his rendition of the local environment.

This movie is definitely worth watching and is one a lot of people are talking about. The two concerns above notwithstanding, Meadows’ vision of the story is genuine and heartfelt. Considine’s pain is palpable. I’m going to be interested in seeing what this team comes up with next.

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