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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 14 December 2005
This is an amazing film. From the moment we watch ex-commando Richard and his mentally retarded brother Anthony walking through serene english countryside interspersed with flashbacks to grainy film of their childhood, you care about these characters, and without that, nothing that followed would matter very much. What does follow is a psychogically convincing drama of revenge that avoids any of the usual clichés, and although incredibly dark, is not so violent that it should put anyone off from watching it. The real violence of the story is shown in the flashbacks of the psychological abuse Anthony suffers, and it's painful to watch because Toby Kebbell convincingly portrays Anthony as a true innocent corrupted in a den of doped up wasters. Shane Meadows uses mostly unknown actors in the roles - and I even heard some were not even actors before this film, and yet he is able to make them act in such a naturalistic way that you feel you are watching the story unfold right before your eyes, happening to real people. Meadows uses this skillfuly to avoid allowing you to feel that the characters are cardboard cut-out baddies, instead making some of them seem like aimless losers, and twists the viewers sympathies in both directions at the same time. When you watch the film, you'll realise that this is quite a feat juxtaposed as it is with the flashback sequences.

Paddy Considine is amazing in his role as 'Anthony's brother'. Although very controlled, the flashes of rage that occasionally burst through - and the coldness with which he pursues his mission - are the heart of the film. Ex-boxer Gary Stretch is also brilliant in his role as Sonny, the leader of the gang. The soundrack, which is a mixture of folk songs and cello driven music perfectly complements the visuals, and a particularly nice touch is that in the flashback sequences showing Anthony's time as part of 'the gang', the melancholy cello driven soundtrack is louder than the dialogue, underpinning the overall tragedy of the situation rather than making you focus on any particular moment.

The ending is powerful and relevant in the context of the story, but that's about all I can say.

I am not a fan of violent movies per-se, but this is a rare movie where the violence does not exist for it's own sake - it's an integral part of a powerful story, and very little is really shown anyway. So if like me, a picture of a man with an axe on the cover with words like 'shocking, scary, violent' are still making you unsure if watching this is maybe not your idea of a friday night movie, trust me, this is far from being the one trick pony that the cover suggests. It's a rich and layered story, brilliantly directed and thoroughly absorbing.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2005
Dead Man's Shoes is a typically British take on the territory of films like Straw Dogs, Death Wish and Last House on the Left, with director Shane Meadows and actor Paddy Considine offering up a reflection of callous violence and searing redemption - shot through with a gritty realism and a stark streak of dark comedy - which will eventually give way to one of the most emotionally crippling final acts ever committed to film.
Beginning with a montage of super-8 footage of the two protagonists as children - inter-cut with their older incarnations wandering across a desolate field to the strains of alt-country favourites Smog - the film immediately sets up a dark foreboding that will cast a shadow across the rest of the film. The story is simple, following a discharged soldier who returns to his hometown after an absence of eight years to get revenge on the gang of local thugs who viciously tormented his younger mentally handicapped brother while he was away. Looking at it on paper, the plot could have easily stemmed from the most shallow and manipulative 80's action blockbuster, with Meadow's making allusions to the first Rambo film, as well as Get Carter and the films aforementioned. However, anyone who's seen Meadows' previous films, most notably, Twenty-Four Seven and A Room for Romeo Brass, will be aware of his style of filmmaking... which often involves scripted scenes that are beautifully composed by the cinematographer, juxtaposed with handheld improvisation sequences featuring non-professional actors, or actors with limited experiences.
Unlike Hollywood revenge dramas such as Rambo, Death Wish and various other projects, Meadows and Considine don't paint the characters as good and bad, or black and white, instead, they offer equal shades of both qualities to both the avenging Richard and the local thugs. This means that as well as feeling sympathy for Richard and his brother, we also feel sorry for the thugs, who here come across as amiable losers, not too dissimilar to the kind of characters you could find in a Ken Loach film. The use of dark humour, or naturalistic humour, which is characteristically British (finding humour in even the most absurd situations because you're not sure how to react, etc) work very well in these early scenes in establishing the thugs and also in creating an atmosphere that eases us into the film before Meadows' hits us with the more shocking and abrasive stuff, come the second act.
The script is brilliantly structured, with Meadows and Considine setting a mood with only the vague suggestion of a plot... allowing the story to become clearer as the film progresses through the use of grainy black and white flashbacks. As we become more fond of the thugs, and even begin to question Richard's actions, the effect of the flashbacks and the behaviour depicted within become more and more brutal, we start to see the full picture emerge and only then, towards the third act, can we fully appreciate the true extent of Richard's carnage. This is probably as bleak as cinema gets (easily on par with other devastating works like Dogville, Irreversible, All or Nothing, Straw Dogs, Stroszek, Cries & Whispers, A Short Film About Killing, and so on), with Meadows offering some brutal set-pieces and a really claustrophobic and suffocating atmosphere - particularly in the later scenes - which document real human horror in a manner that is completely unflinching.
Considine's performance as the seemingly damaged Richard is a revelation - easily as great as his portrayal of Rob Gretton in 24 Hour Party People... though completely different - as he manages to convey a sense of danger and menace whilst all the while retaining an element of restraint... which, somehow, makes him all the more disturbing. The other actors are also very strong, particularly Toby Kebbell as the mildly retarded (childlike) Anthony, who, along with former boxer Gary Stretch and unknowns like Paul Sadot, Neil Bell and Stuart Wolfenden (who make up the main bulk of the gang) bring a realism and a naturalism to a film which, in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, could have easily become a series of trite clichés. Nothing about Dead Man's Shoes ever feels trite... the brisk 80 minute running time remains riveting throughout (largely down to Considine's towering performance and the bleak but beautiful imagery of Meadows and cinematographer Danny Cohen) whilst the use of music - covering everything from Bonny Prince Billy, to Aphex Twin, ClayHill, M Ward and a variety of others - captures the real spirit of the film perfectly.
Dead Man's Shoes is already one of my all-time favourite films, and is a film that I would argue to be one of the greatest British films ever made. Meadows' proves that powerful and emotionally engaging films can be made on a shoestring budget, whilst also demonstrating quite clearly that there IS life in the British film industry outside the cosy realms of Richard Curtis. Although it may be a little too depressing for some viewers, for me, Dead Man's Shoes remains a shining example of what real filmmaking is all about... and should be of interest to anyone with a serious love of film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2012
This is the greatest revenge movie I have ever seen.
I will say a few more words about it after I have said this: Would people stop reviewing the service of Amazon and whether the dvd was in good condition, you are supposed to review the movies, and if you haven't seen it wait until you have.
Anyway, I just want to add to the positve reviews on here. It's bleak, melancholic, emotional, brutal and totally life affirming. You can really sense the depth of feeling of the main character - Paddy Considine is simply brilliant! The movie feels very British and the Northern backdrop really helps create a great atmosphere. It blew me away the first time I watched it, but it's not one for those who dont like any violence in their movies.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 2006
I will try not to be too effusive about this film since I would rather people see it to make up their own minds. But this is one of the few films of late that has grabbed my attention on the strength of the believable and powerful performances rather than big budget effects, form over substance. Real drama derives from human emotion, not grandiose cgi.

Paddy Considine's performance is great, the viewer fears him and sympathises with him equally. But Toby Kebbell steals the show. Great emotive soundtrack too.

Nuff said, do please see it and decide for yourselves.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2006
This film should be required viewing for anyone who thinks you can only make a good movie if you throw money at it. This is a perfect example in how to make a great film by improvising and using the power of suggestion instead of make up and effects. Hats off to all involved. I found this engrossing and also very moving. Strong underplayed performances all round from the cast, and hats off to the director for squeezing every last drop out of the talent and budget that was available to him.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2006
Compressed into an hour and a half the viewer will visit and be immersed in the dark side of human nature,consider the meaning of evil and ask questions of themselves which will perhaps bring back long suppressed memories of guilt,anger,and hatred.

This is a pocket-sized gem encapsulating much of the human condition but without a shred of optimism.

A bleak Midlands town is the back-drop for a visitation by an avenging angel - Paddy Considine back from the army and out to exact recompense for the ill-treatment of his gentle but sub-normal brother at the hands of the town's dysfunctional drug fuelled petty crooks.

What follows is not easy viewing but left this reviewer sitting on the sofa with his head in his hands for several minutes after the credits had stopped.

An exceptional film ,coupled with a perfectly judged soundtrack and one which will linger long in the mind.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2006
I loved this film. Considering the state of the British film industry (what industry?) it's great to see directors like Shane Meadows able to produce an excellent film on an extremely limited budget. Interesting then that few reviewers have picked up on the religious overture to the film: from the first line 'God will forgive them' it is clear that this is a film about revenge. But 'vengance is mine sayeth the lord' and in exacting God's revenge, in playing God, Considine's character has transgressed a line, and as a result the final scene (which I believe was shot sometime after the main shoot, as filmmakers weren't up to that point clear on the ending) is the logical conclusion to a deeply religious parable. Which is odd considering the brutality of the film and the moral filth of the characters. Shane Meadows is a bit of a hero frankly. If you haven't already, watch it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2007
What a film. I bought it because it was a couple of quid in WH Smith. Friday night, we got a takeaway and decided we'd give it a try. We were completely blown away. The acting, the story and some of the most shocking stalker scenes ive ever seen. Brutal. Back to form for british film.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2006
This in my opinion is one of the best acted, scripted and directed films ever. The criminals are believable and not the usual cheeky chirpy chappys as seen in Snatch etc. The are true low lifes. Paddy Considine gives a powerful emotional performance which leaves you breathless throughout. I cannot rate this film enough. I also recommend the soundtrack. Each track fits in just right.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2007
This is fantastic film making - a straightforward but riveting story delivered in a masterfully deliberate way - important snippets of information being witheld until the last possible moment with devastating effect. I was left stunned by the end credits.
The humour is laugh-out-loud funny (the gang's crap old citroen is hilarious) until something close to the full scale of the tragedy is revealed. A harrowing and tragic story brilliantly told.
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