So begins “Dead Man’s Shoes,” a pitch-black revenge thriller set in an even darker suburban London underworld. It’s an indie jack of all trades of sorts, using elements of drama, horror and even a pinch of comedy to tell its tale. It’s a bit jumpy, and, thanks to the thick accents, could use subtitles a la the club scene in “Trainspotting,” but despite the fact that there is little left to the imagination, the movie is enthralling.
The dialogue quoted above belongs to Richard (Paddy Considine), a soldier who returns to his grimy ‘burb after seven years in the service. While Richard was away, a local group of drug dealing dirtbags was not very nice to his developmentally disabled little brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell). They took Anthony in and watched after him, but they also humiliated him as well, and Richard has a score to settle, particularly with Sonny (Gary Stretch), the leader of the group. As we see Richard go on his rampage, the movie jumps back and forth between details about how Anthony suffered at the hands of Sonny and his mates, and Richard’s slow, methodical execution of said mates.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll catch about every sixth word of dialogue, but surprisingly, it’ll be enough to follow the action. I’m not sure if that’s because the story structure is so mind-numbingly simple or because director Shane Meadows’ use of visuals successfully fills the gaps. Richard doesn’t stalk these goons like Jason Voorhees, hiding in the shadows; he’s pretty much right out in the open, taunting them for their gross incompetence and complete inability to stop him. And just when the movie appears to be on autopilot, they reveal a piece of information that drastically changes your feelings about everything you’ve seen up to that point, and all for the better. Without that scene, the movie is just one long, anticlimactic death scene. With it, it becomes a probing character study.
IMDb lists “Dead Man’s Shoes” as a 2004 release, which makes one wonder what held this movie back a couple years. This isn’t some “Adventures of Pluto Nash” shelving decision here, where the studio knew it was sitting on a dud and tried to keep it off the books. Why was no one interested in releasing this? It’s not the most revelatory movie in the world, but much, much worse UK imports than this have crossed the pond in the last two years.(3.5 / 5)