Dead Man’s Shoes

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(2004) ★★★★★

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Brit-flick conventions No.2: The social-realist thriller. The rather terrifyingly blank actor Paddy Considine is pitch perfect as an ex-Para swearing vengeance on the lowlife goons and druggies who terrorised his retarded kid brother while he was away. Considine’s placid features are sometimes hard to read. His intentions, though, are horribly clear – he’s wearing a gas mask and carrying an axe. This is England’s Shane Meadows confirmed his unrivalled ranking in the Britfilm firmament with this pared-down, devastating vigilante thriller. Derbyshire’s peak district has never seemed so bleak, nor the revenger’s quest so righteous. Considine’s guilt-ridden intensity, coupled with the striking use of music, gives the film a Biblical dimension that’s Dead Sea scrolls away from Charles Bronson’s Old Testament tactics in Death Wish. Daringly, the entire film’s point of view is revealed in Considine’s opening voice-over statement: “God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.” Unlike the earnest agit-prop of Ken Loach or the occasionally theatrical bent of Mike Leigh, the films of Shane Meadows are steeped above all in a sheer love of cinema. He’s a natural born film-maker and the stories he tells are precisely and powerfully English. With Sightseers and A Field in England, Ben Wheatley has shown that he might yet prove to be a serious contender for Shane’s crown. It’s up for grabs, after all, because Meadows presently seems content to update This is England for TV while indulging his love for the Stone Roses in documentary form.
Certificate: 18
Duration: 84min