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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying but incomplete over view of a talented film makers career so far, 7 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Shane Meadow's Collection (Twenty Four Seven, A Room for Romeo Brass, Dead Man's Shoes, This Is England) [DVD] (DVD)
Shane Meadows is the new Ken Loach, Mike Leigh , Alan Clark...delete as appropriate , or not as the case may be. Whether you do agree with any of the following its hard to deny that Meadows has carved out a niche for himself with his docu-drama type approach to film making and his empathy with working class characters . Meadows , though is probably more empirically sympathetic to these characters and is closer in nature to them than any of the above film makers. That means they have a real frisson of veracity and a tarnished cadence of truth . Mainly though they are by turns funny , moving , shocking or just entertaining .It's not a bad mix anyway you look at it.
This collection unfortunately misses out "Once Upon A Time In The Midlands" for some reason. It's the weakest film Meadows has made , but it's still worth a viewing and it would have been nice for anal completist reasons to have it included here .
Meadows first film "Twenty Four Seven " (1997) is a tale of dragging inspiration from alienation as Alan Darcy (Bob Hoskins) tries to motivate the delinquent youths of a Midland town by forming a boxing club. Shot in grainy black and white with a cast of largely unknowns the film never descends into the sort of sickly sweet barely credible overcoming the odds tripe that Hollywood excels at , but instead subverts our expectations with an out of the blue tragedy that leads to a very moving coda that showcases how the challenges of making the world a better place often come at a price for the most altruistic .
A Room For Romeo Brass (1999) like Twenty Four seven was written by Meadows with collaborator Paul Fraser and is essentially a buddy movie the buddies being young Romeo Brass (Andrew Shim) and Gavin" Knock Knock" Wooley (Ben Marshall) .They are neighbours and inseparable but when shell suited older misfit Morrel (Paddy Considine) saves Romeo from a beating after Romeo had intervened on behalf of his limping friend a wedge is driven between the pair. Morell mutates from a gawky impressionable eccentric, humiliated by the two boys when they advise him how to impress Romeo's older sister Ladine ( Vicky McClure) to a hissing snide bully who threatens Knock Knock on a day out , causing him to withdraw from Romeo.
The return of Romeo's father Joe ( Frank Harper) exacerbates the situation as he threatens Morrel after his ministrations on Ladine and Romeo moves in with Morrel but a further attempted seduction of Ladine ends in humiliation for Morell who throws Romeo out leading to another violent confrontation which bonds the families again and re-unites the two former friends . With some wonderful naturalistic performances, a testimony to the director who is not adverse to actors improvising , and a compelling turn from Considine the film has a warm empathetic feel. Meadows it would seem is one of those film makers capable of avoiding cliché and gross sentiment in order for us to sympathise with his characters . This is his finest achievement in that regard.
Dead Mans Shoes (2004) was made after the rather light-hearted "Once Upon A Time In The Midlands" (2002) and is an entirely different proposition. It's a revenge movie , and a very unflinching one at that but it doesn't resort to over the top action or attempt to leaven it's impact with casual humour .This film is deadly serious and because its moral and aesthetic imperative is stripped to the bones unlike contemporary films like "Kill Bill" it achieves a gritty realism not seen since "Get Carter" .
The screenplay has paratrooper Richard (Paddy Considine who co-wrote the screenplay with Meadows)returning to his home town (The film was shot in Matlock Derbyshire) to avenge the tormentors of his mentally challenged brother Anthony ( Toby Kebbell) .The gang are big fish in a small pond and are led by the swaggering Sonny (Gary Stretch) but Richard using almost psychotic conviction and psychological warfare unsettles the gang and then starts to pick them off one by one. There is a twist at the conclusion which brings Richards frontier value revenge into harsh focus and though the denouement slightly defies credibility there is no doubt that this is a film with topical resonance and a tangible emotional kick.
The final film here is the recent This Is England(2006) a semi-autobiographical tale set in Grimsby in the early eighties just after the Falklands and the biting down of Thatcher's policies. Like many of his films it see's a young impressionable boy taken under the wing of older flawed men .This time its 13 year old Shaun ( Thomas Turgoose) ,a lad picked on because his dad had been killed in the Falklands and for his horrible flared jeans which make him look like "Keith Chegwins younger brother". A chance meeting with a gang of skinheads ,who prove to be sympathetic to his plight lead to him becoming one of the gang and as well as forming a bond with the groups charismatic leader Woody ( Joe Gilgun) he strikes up a tentative relationship with Smell ( Rosamund Hanson) a languorous girl-punk. However when violent and political Combo(Stephen Graham) a member of The National Front re-joins the gang after a period in jail the gang is torn apart and it's not long before virulent racism and brutality follow.
This Is England attempts to humanise Skinheads (The gang listen to a ska music and have a black member played by Meadows regular Andrew Shim) and while that is not entirely successful it does show that the gangs offered a surrogate family for alienated youths , something that still resounds with modern-day youth culture. Mostly though it is a superbly acted (Thurgoose is a revelation) rites of passage told with pragmatic conviction that convincingly juxtaposes it's political content with the personnel .
This is an excellent box -set with some worthy extras but I feel it would have been preferable to include everything Meadows has put his burgeoning name to including the unjustly maligned OUATITM and the shorts he made especially "Small Time". But for anyone wanting to investigate arguably the most essential film maker currently working in Britain (Danny Boyle would raise an objection here I think) or just to purchase a large chunk of his output in one hit, this does the job though I repeat , the market for a more definitive overview still remains to be exploited.
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Initial post: 15 Jan 2009, 14:12:43 GMT
Bazza says:
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