“Well you should be. If I were you, i’d get in that fuckin’ car and i’d get out of here man. I’d gather them goonies and get whatever you’ve got comin’ mate… ’cause i’m gonna fucking hit you all.”
Many years ago I watched Dead Man’s Shoes and I can vividly remember coming away from the film and thinking that clearly it didn’t take much budget to create an incredible film. This was before I knew Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine. I was fortunate enough to have the ‘This is Shane Meadows’ boxset bought for me as a present (thanks to The Beautiful Game? blogger Richard) after I realised – and he realised – that I may be a Shane Meadows fan – having loved Dead Man’s Shoes many years ago, and hailing This is England as a British masterpiece. Put it this way, I am watching more and more Shane Meadows films and this man is a incredible filmmaker and you folk across the atlantic need to hunt him out. The less you know about this film the better and, I would advise, that you hunt the film out before reading further because – like usual – this is more an analysis of specific aspects and this film would be much better without you reading everything before watching it. But, if you are one of the lucky ones who has watched this film – keep going…
A Western in the Midlands
When I watched this recently, a close friend noted that is almost a western as it introduces Richard Paddy Considine) as the ‘stranger’ who comes to town. If you push this logic further, you can see how the
equilibrium is disrupted further as not only does the prescence of Richard change everything in this small community – his intention is to wipe out the scum and clear the streets for the future. The fact that it is a story of a revenge is no suprise as we know that revenege as a theme is often used within Westerns additionally. Fact is, this is not overt – and this narrative-similarity is one of very few factors that relate to the wetsern. Visually, only the wide shots could provide a visual-signifier of the western – the muddy, rainy midlands-landscape replacing the dusty, yellow landscape of Sergio Leone’s westerns (Though I have yet to see it, I imagine it is not coincidence that another Shane Meadows film is titled Once Upon a Time in the Midlands… a clear reference to Leone)
We Are Responsible
On this second watch, I realised that as we approach the finale and Richard approaches the final ‘member’ of the goons we see two children which are quite obviously based on both Richard and Anthony – one of the boys even wears a similar jacket to Richard. What does this say? We have watched this man murder a wide range of people who, though murderers themselves, we have to question whether his form of justice is right. Fact is, Richard was a child himself – who played with his brother, who came home to his Mum and was raised by his parents, etc. These children are learning the way of the world and the influence of others is of huge significance – and the cyclical fact of Richards influence on them is obvious in how he directly influences them to some extent by handing them such strange – and unsafe – objects. But the actions of their father, in the past, is something that to some extent will continue – this final man has not confessed his sins and the penance has not been dealt. This final man, as he has children, is the most important victim to influence.
Though this film is set-up as a horror, we are supposed to completely understand Richard motives and, to some extent, even agree with him. But his actions are what we condemn – but his hatred, disgust and anger is wholly justified. This hatred, disgust and anger is not just at the killers of his brother – but with these examples of ‘society’.
Working Class Trying to Break Free
Like much of Shane Meadows work, this is a look at the working-class of Britain – the characters and attitudes of very few people who, unhappy with the cards dealt to them for life, do grotesque and horrible actions to make their lives more meaningful. Anthony follows and advises richard, as a guardian to Richards quest of revenge. Anthony, as the victim, is standing up to the bullies that abused him and took his life – Richard and Anthony understood who they were – Richard supported his family by choosing a career in the Army whilst Anthony, clearly with severe special-needs, turned to the wrong people for support and, rather than support, their selish actions cost him his life.
The film ends as Richard sacrifices his life – he demands Mark, the one member of the gang whose crime was not standing up to the bullies and letting the atrocity continue, to kill him. Richard, though seeking revenge – he knows the severity of the crimes he has committed – and, unlike the killers of Anthony, knows the price he has to pay.
I am positive that I shall watch this again and I know that it will continue to be a fascinating insight into the animalistic behaviour humans can conduct. Whe I do revisit this, I will add more to this post. Suffice to say, Dead Mans Shoes is an incredible film.