Revenge is a dangerous, self-destructive concept, born by humans, and perpetuated by humans. It is the idea of revenge being a hot coal, yet, only the victim holds in in their own hand, burning themselves, until they are strong enough to let it go and move beyond it. The idea is that it is an unending cycle, like a perpetual motion machine. But even in knowing that, revenge movies are my favorite sub-genre. I may know they always go down some dark road, and rarely are there winners in the black and white sense, yet I take every revenge movie journey, well aware that it may mess me up on some level, but also knowing I need to see it.
I need to see the dark varicose veins that hide inside the thick white thigh of our subconscious. And no revenge movie in recent memory had the impact on me quite like Dead Man Shoes, which was actually recommended to me by one very astute Unreality reader who’s colorful moniker I cannot recall at this exact moment. And honestly, outside of Oldboy, I don’t think I have seen a revenge movie that impacted me like Dead Man’s Shoes did. Which is exactly why we are here, right now. So I can let you know that you NEED to see it, too. Just be prepared, it is a clear vision into a very dark and all-too-believable world, and one you may never shake after seeing it.
Dead Man’s Shoes is 2004 movie from the UK about a disaffected solider who returns home from war to find out a gang of local neighborhood dealers and hoods have been bullying his mentally disabled younger brother in his absence. Suffice it to say, his time in combat had a rather profound affect on his subconscious and mental state, and returning home to the realization that his brother has been victimized (in some far too horrible ways to mention) because he was not around to protect him, pretty causes a full breakdown, leading him to take revenge on the entirety of the gang who did it. That synopsis may make it sound like SO MANY other revenge movies you have seen, but you need to take it from me, it is far superior to almost any revenge movie ever, with the exception of all South Korean revenge movies, which are their own divine creature.
So what sets Dead Man’s Shoes apart? Well, first allow me to slightly dissect two of the mesmerizing performances that make the movie so exceptional.
First off, we have Paddy Considine as Richard.
I sometimes like to sit in tires before I murder whole gangs as well. It’s very zen.
You know those kind of movies where you watch, and you stop seeing a movie? You stop seeing people putting on a show to tell a story, and instead, just see the story unfold as if you are watching it through a window in your house? THAT is Paddy’s performance as Richard. He is SO overcome with rage and grief at times, that the marrow in your bones will ache when you see him. You will forget this is a movie. He is tortured, and by FAR MORE than what the movie shows or hints at, which is what makes him such a compelling character. This guy does some sick, brutal shit, but we are somehow aware at all times that this is NOTHING compared to some of the stuff he has seen. Keep in mind, when not directly confronting the scum that did this to his brother, he acts with no dialogue and only with his eyes and demeanor. And even then, you feel it. An emptiness. A kind of pain that never goes away and can never be identified.
Paddy Considine truly gives a tortured, driven, believable performance, and at points in this film, you will be seething and seeing red with this guy. While, at other points, you will find yourself just wishing you could give him a hug and tell him life gets better, even though we all know it doesn’t. Ever. Even for the best of us.
These two honestly blew my mind many times over in this movie.
Next up, we have Toby Kebell.
You may remember Toby from him more popular role in the amazing Guy Ritchie pic, Rock N’ Rolla. Here, please allow me to show you Kebell in Rock N’ Rolla:
Yup, that cocky bastard is Kebell in Rock N’ Rolla.
And now, a scene that shows Kebbell in this film, and though it is short, it sums up the intensity of both performances.
Yes, Kebbell goes “full retard” and nails it.
I know that was but a passing scene to see what he can do, but from the mannerisms to the facial expressions, to even the insecure way he tilts his head in the other direction, being someone who worked for years and years with kids with special needs, he gets it spot on, and your soul will hurt for him, empathizing with situations you never would have dreamt up, even in your worst nightmares. You can CLICK HERE if you want to get an idea of some of the stuff he endures, but I will warn you as I oft do, it is kinda soul ruining, especially out of context, so watch at your own risk.
I am aware that revenge outfit may seem kind of cliche, but he has just returned from war, so it is actually very well written in that sense. Also, kinda badass, I won’t lie.
But wait, why would I tell you to watch a movie and then warn you not to watch this scene? Truth is, I do think you should see ALL OF the movie, but I think you need the entirety to feel the real power here. You see, no matter what you think, this is not a revenge tale in the way you want it to be. You need to understand that the very best revenge movies always show us that the hero becomes the monster when they intend to let revenge eat them alive. It becomes like a sort of violent possession or a disease. When you choose revenge, you are choosing the “darkest timeline”, and you need to know that many things one could not expect come along with that.
Also, you know I talk vague about these films I recommend to you in this column now, and I do so with the intent of taking none of the joy of experiencing the film from you, but I want to mention that there is a plot twist at one point in this film, and it adds a whole new emotional layer the story you have experienced up to that point, sort of rewriting it before your eyes. And that brings me to my final point about why you need to see Dead Man’s Shoes.
Saved the trailer for the end, just to really get you ready.
When was the last time you saw a film that hit you in ALL of your feels? For me, a movie that can make me cry AND cringe, is a pretty remarkable journey, and one more people need to take, even if the weight of the subject matter scares them. It SHOULD scare them. This stuff is devastating. But in the same breath, it is also incredibly honest and brave film making, and just because certain things scare us to death (like the sexual assault of someone with special needs, for example), doesn’t mean we should pretend it doesn’t happen, because it does. And as great as revenge may seem for such an atrocious act, Dead Man’s Shoes reminds us that revenge turns us into the very people we hate, and that hate, in itself, can consume us.
So you should see Dead Man Shoe’s (which is on Netflix, right now, as of 7/6/13), just don’t be prepared to unsee it anytime soon, because it is the kind of movie you can never unsee.