(2004) dir. Shane Meadows
Recommended by a friend in England, Dead Man’s Shoes is the first film that I have seen by director Shane Meadows who seems to be compiling a number of somewhat notable films that are primarily set in the British Midlands, an area that doesn’t have a long history of significant filmic documentation (as far as I can tell), but also happens to be the part of England with which I am most familiar.
Dead Man’s Shoes was filmed in Matlock, a small town in the Peak District, and the location shooting was probably my favorite thing about the film. The accents have this familiar, if hard to understand, Derbyshire character, which is also appealing.
The film, itself, is not bad and certainly has its moments. There is heavy downbeat tone to the film, which is a violent revenge story (unsurprisingly downbeat, I guess — revenge murder sprees really are kind of a bummer). I guess, as well, that this was my largest problem with it. There are a lot of films that meet this basic criteria, and it’s hard to say exactly what this one brings to the “genre” if we can call it that. If you don’t want the story ruined, please don’t read on.
The vengeance-seeker is an ex-military man, returned to the Midlands to avenge his mentally-challenged brother’s death due to abuse that he suffers from a gang of local drug dealers and brutes (a fact that is only unfolded completely toward the end). Therein lies the mystery, which is moderately formulaic enough to sort of see long before it comes around. The uses of grainy black-and-white for flashbacks is so by-the-book that it reflects a lack of imagination of the filmmaker.
What the film does seem to do is sort of sympathize both sides to an extent in this. There is tragedy in the maniacal yet methodical harassment and killings and the ending reflects this. But while trying to figure out why this revenge had to be carried out seems to linger and I don’t know that the film is utterly clear about this sad, pessimistic process, or ultimately what it is trying to say.