Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Dead Man’s Shoes
DEAD MAN’S SHOES
UK 2004 : Shane MEADOWS : 86 mins
Self-taught Nottinghamshire auteur Meadows has long been hailed (or rather hyped) as the Great Young Hope of British Cinema. Critics enthused over his debut Twentyfourseven (1997) and his follow-up A Room For Romeo Brass (1999), while even the misfiring Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002) attracted its share of admirers. But the public stayed away – all three pictures were notable failures at the box-office.
Dead Man’s Shoes may well suffer a similar fate – not least because its muddled advertising campaign ludicrously presents it as a “slasher” movie. The film is undeniably a tough sell: a violent tale of revenge set in Matlock and the surounding Derbyshire countryside, shot through with moments of unexpectedly larkish humour and informed by a knowledge of classic Westerns. The story begins with a pair of brothers returning to their sleepy home-town: Richard (Considine) is a brooding, volatile ex-soldier; his younger sibling Antony (Kebbell) suffers from a mild learning disability. In flashbacks, we learn that Antony had previously falled in with the rough crowd circling charismatic local crime-boss Sonny (Gary Stretch). This had unfortunate consequences for the hapless Antony, and now his brother wants to settle old scores…
Meadows’ previous films were co-written with Paul Fraser, and they often struggled to strike the right balance between comedy and dark drama – disastrously so, in the case of Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. This is Meadows’ first script collaboration with Considine – and the results are a quantum-leap beyond anything he’s achieved before. After an uneven first hour, in which the thespian limitations of ex-boxer Stretch are a nagging distraction, events take a deadly serious turn with a climax that achieves a emotional intensity that may take many viewers by surprise. It’s clear that Considine is no less talented as a writer than he is as an actor – which is no small praise, as in Dead Man’s Shoes he delivers one of the year’s finest, most terrifyingly believable and piercingly vulnerable performances in what is easily one of the year’s most remarkable films.
6th-20th September, 2004
(seen 19th August : UGC Edinburgh : press show – Edinburgh Film Festival)
click here for the longer original version of the review
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For other films rated 9/10 and 10/10 check out our Hall of Fame
by Neil Young