The screenwriting debut of actor Paddy Constantine (best known for playing the father in "In America"), "Dead Man's Shoes" is a subdued revenge drama that features the reliable Constantine in yet another stellar performance. Directed by Shane Meadows, "Shoes" opens with Richard (Constantine) returning home to a small town in the British Midlands after serving time in the military.
The reason for his return soon becomes clear: the local drug dealers have horribly mistreated his mentally handicapped younger brother, Anthony (Toby Kebell), and Richard wants revenge for what they did. Richard's acts start off with smaller acts of vandalism and quickly escalate as he deals with nearly every one of the thugs involved, growing darker as he dispatches them.
That's really about the long and short of the plot. However, what makes the film are the performances and the setting. Meadows uses the desolate town to full effect, as Richard faces off against the dealers in the midst of quiet streets, abandoned barns and back alleys. The picture almost has the feeling of a Western at times. The score, which is mildly folksy at times, seems like an odd choice at first, but actually manages to give the film a feeling of eerie, haunting dread.
Constantine's performance is exceptional, as well. The actor manages to give Richard a rather subdued surface and yet still seem like he's about to utterly boil over. It's an incredibly intense and powerful performance that is one of the actor's best. The supporting players also make a very good impression in few scenes. Although there's a lot of unsympathetic characters, the performances and mood (not to mention the fact that, at only 90 minutes, it doesn't wear out its welcome) of the picture make it consistently engaging.
Overall, "Dead Man's Shoes" is a strong entry in the revenge film catagory, with Paddy Constantine providing a powerhouse performance portraying a man changed by revenge.
VIDEO: "Dead Man's Shoes" is presented by Magnolia Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Shot in 16mm, the picture quality is usually fine, but can vary at times. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory in most scenes, but other moments can appear soft. Understandably, there are some flashback B & W scenes that are meant to appear scratchy and soft.
The main issue with the presentation is that there are a handful of scenes where mild edge enhancement is present. On a positive note, print flaws aren't seen and no other concerns are spotted. Colors looked natural and accurately presented, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack has a few moments of surround use for effects and ambience, but otherwise remains a straightforward presentation. Also, taccents used in the picture can be pretty thick at times - while the film's soundtrack presents them clearly, some may still want to turn subtitles on at times.
EXTRAS: The friendly commentary with Shane Meadows, co-writer/star Paddy Considine, and producer Mark Herbert provides a lot of good details on the making of the picture, which was done on a very tight schedule with a tight budget. The trio go into a lot of strong detail on the production, talking about casting, production difficulties, locations and much more. "In Shane's Shoes" is a 25-minute featurette that has Meadows discussing his past and how it influenced the film and shows the director taking the movie to festivals. Finally, we get an extended scene and an alternate ending.
Final Thoughts: Constantine provides a terrific performance and "Dead Man's Shoes" is a very good (and different, as it's more of a drama than the usual action-driven revenge picture) entry in the "revenge picture" catagory. The DVD offers fairly good audio/video quality and a few interesting supplements.