DIRECTED BY Shane Meadows
STARRING Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell
Opened October 1, Cert 18, 86 mins
Now that the '90s trend for chucking Lottery cash at tax-break B-movies is over, we're left with a stripped-down who's who of great British directors. Jonathan Glazer's in it. Guy Ritchie isn't. Matthew Vaughn and Paul Greengrass are new entries. All great, but perhaps none are as worthy of your attention as Shane Meadows. With Dead Man's Shoes, he brings the '70s revenge movie cycle to rural Derbyshire and makes it look not only plausible but compelling.
Paddy Considine gives a career-best performance as a soldier returning to his home town for the first time in seven years to confront the bullies who (we learn in flashback) teased and exploited his simple-minded brother in increasingly sadistic ways. Initially it seems he's just going to humiliate them. Staring at them in pubs, making up their faces while they're asleep, spray-painting insults on their coats...the tone is similar to Meadows' previous films. The baddies listen to gangsta rap in a knackered Citroën 2CV and talk stoned rubbish in run-down council flats.
Meadows' genius is to maintain this level of comic realism when Considine dons a scary gas mask and starts bumping them off. One scene starts with him spiking their Pot Noodles with Ecstasy and, when they're high on the drug, proceeds to a shockingly intimate series of murders in a tiny front room. As most of the victims seem to be likeable stooges (and are played with dopey pathos), Considine's actions seem totally out of proportion. But then you realise the full extent of the gang's crimes. And you realise that, minus the avenging hero, this is small-town Britain as it really is: boredom, drugs, stupidity...comedy turning to violence in a split second and real monsters living unnoticed in small communities. With Dead Man's Shoes, Meadows has pulled off a low-budget masterpiece. It should be shown everywhere. It won't be. Seek it out.
Rating: 4 / 10