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Seven years after he left to join the army, Richard (co-writer/actor Paddy Considine, In America) returns to his home town in the English midlands with revenge on his mind. Furious that his mentally-challenged younger brother Anthony (Tony Kebbell) was bullied and tormented by a gang of petty thugs while he was away, Richard hunts down each member of the gang and executes them in increasingly elaborate ways as flashbacks reveal the extent to which his brother suffered at their hands. A genre-defying film blending horror, supernatural elements, comedy and social realism, directed and co-written by Shane Meadows (TwentyFourSeven).
 

 Revenge

I felt, in a way, as though I’d lost my way after my last feature film Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. I was desperate to get back to being honest with myself in my next film. I had already been feeling this way and then happened to take a trip back to Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, England, the town I grew up in. I was overwhelmed with sadness at what I saw there, and at some of the memories the visit jogged in me. We used to take a lot of drugs as we were growing up—there was nothing else to do to have fun—and some appalling tragedies happened as a result. A close friend of mine who had been bullied developed a drug problem and then committed suicide. I couldn’t believe that, going back ten years later, he had been totally forgotten in the town; it was as if he had never existed. I was filled with anger against the people who had bullied him and pushed the drugs on him, and with despair at what drugs had done to that small community. What was done in the name of recreation had had such devastating results.

I started to wonder what might happen if someone chose to try to right the wrongs that had been done, instead of ignoring the terrible tragedy of it all. That is where the idea came from for Dead Man’s Shoes. I’m not violent and I’ve never enjoyed violence, but at the end of the day, the characters who get killed in Dead Man's Shoes are based on people I wanted to kill. It’s true and I’m not going to lie about it. It was one of those environments where anyone who showed any kind of weakness was preyed upon, and that’s pretty much what happened to my friend.

When I was younger some of the films which inspired me were Rambo: First Blood, which also provided the template of the returning soldier taking the law into his own hands, and Southern Comfort, in which American National Guardsmen discover their savage inner selves whilst lost in Bayou country. The thing I remember about films like Death Wish was the fact that the Charles Bronson character uses such low-tech weaponry, like coins in a sock. I don’t know why, but we respond to those kinds of things, and I have tried to do something similar with the violence in my own film.

What really attracted me to many of those films was that their central characters were almost like spokesmen for the dark recesses of our own minds. Me and Paddy Considine, the film’s star and co-writer, had a conversation about road rage, which I admit I suffer from. I’ve been in a car where somebody’s cut me up and I’ve seriously wanted to follow them, pull out an axe, cut their vehicle into pieces and say, “Well, you’ll never do that again, now will you?!” What actually happens is that I smile, put my hand up and drive home with all these poisonous thoughts running around in my brain. But at least I admit to those thoughts.

As I said, I’m not the kind of person who’s going to act on these impulses. But nor do I allow them to fester inside myself anymore. I try to find a way of getting them out of my system. And film does that for me. But without film, without the catharsis that it offers, God knows what would happen.

 
 

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