Hot on the heels of incredible films like V for Vendetta, Lucky Number Slevin, and Hard Candy comes yet another revenge movie that’s, well, not so incredible. The worst part is that I was looking forward to a good thriller from the UK, but that was not the film that I got.
The whole experience begins with a somewhat unremarkable storyline. A soldier returns to his hometown to avenge the mistreatment of his mentally challenged brother while he was away. Sound simple? It is. Although, it is important to keep in mind that a simple storyline does not necessarily equal a bad revenge film.
Normally, this is the part where I would elaborate a bit on the plot. This time, however, there’s nothing to elaborate on. Richard leaves town to go soldier, his younger brother Anthony stays behind. A group of recreational drug users and small time dealers decide to have a little fun with simple-minded Anthony while no one was there to protect him. Now that Richard is back, he’s making each one of them pay for what they did. That’s it!
Through a series of decently timed flashbacks, Dead Man’s Shoes elaborates on the exact crimes that were inflicted upon Richard’s younger brother, Anthony. The problem created by telling the story this way is two-fold. In the beginning of the film, I had no idea why Richard was harassing the gang of thugs because the film hadn’t told me yet.
Secondly, Dead Man’s Shoes chose to enlighten me about the most grievous act done to Anthony only at the very end of the film. I had seen Richard kill several people for what seemed to be the only crime of pressuring little Anthony into smoking some pot. Now I could talk about the moral issues involved (or not!) with recreational drug use all day long, but I think we could all agree that talking someone into smoking weed is not a crime deserving death!
As the movie continues, we learn that not only did the gang get him high, but they talked a girl into taking his virginity too! Shocking, I know. The bastards. And then we watch more people be killed for these crimes.
Are you beginning to see where the bad taste in my mouth originated? I spent over an hour watching a crazy soldier kill people for nothing more than sexing up his brother! It was disconcerting to say the least. The movie does redeem itself a bit in the end. The final few flashbacks finally show crimes that (for some viewers) may deserve death. The end of the film also includes an interesting fact, it seems Richard is a little torn up about playing his Spirit of Vengeance role. Learning this at the beginning of the movie could have created a powerful film about the inner struggle between justice and morality. Too bad that wasn’t this movie!
Aside from falling short on plot, action, and — well — good revenging in general, there is one nice thing I can say. Paddy Consadine’s performance as Richard is interesting. I’ve seen my fair share movies from the ol’ UK and consider myself quite a fan of the vast majority of them. Somehow, though, I’ve never seen him before.
Was his acting superb or his emotion infinitely believable? Not really. But he’s got that mysterious quality that made him fun to watch and very enjoyable. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Paddy. (Now I just feel weird for saying that.) Consadine’s average performance was still not enough to save the below average Dead Man’s Shoes.
It could have included better action. It could have given the audience some interesting moral quandaries ponder. It could have been a better revenge movie. But it wasn’t. I would recommend Dead Man’s Shoes only to such incredibly hard-core fans of the lead actor that they absolutely have to see everything he’s done. Everyone else, STAY AWAY! You’ve been warned…
It wasn’t horrible…
What could have been a potent moral thriller fell very, very short.
On the Side:
When Richard breaks into the flat he spray paints “Cheyne Stoking” on the wall. In very sick patients, this is the name of the breathing pattern that is a sign of impending death.
Starring: Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell
Directed by: Shane Meadows
Writing Credits: Paddy Considine, Paul Fraser, Shane Meadows
Run Time: 90 min.
Studio: Magnolia Pictures (official site)
Final Grade: D
By Jarvis Mishler, Staff Writer for Film School Rejects