Good Friday in Central London. Some people are are well into Bank Holiday drinking mode, namely downing booze as though it’s about to be banned. In Covent Garden, a young bloke wants to get a call and response thing going on, ‘When I say “chicken” you say “legs”!’ A slurred voiced joins in from across the piazza. ‘Chicken!’ ‘Legs!’ ‘Chicken!’ ‘Legs!’ All of this would be charmingly silly. Except I’ve just re-watched Shane Meadow’s splendid 2004 film Dead Man’s Shoes at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. So there’s a bit of an edge to the jollity.
‘Dance at my party!’ Richard (Paddy Considine – super intense yet also believable – he could be a real bloke brimming with anger in the pub, perhaps glancing satirically at the ‘chicken legs’ lads whilst supping a pint) demands, as the targets of his vengence as they flop about the room under the influence of spiked tea. He’s a former soldier, back in his small hometown to track down the fellas who mistreated his mentally handicapped brother.
It’s a Western, basically. Richard is the British of the Man With No Name. What the gang have done is horrific, but Richard finds it impossible to destroy them without turning into a ‘monster’.
Dead Man’s Shoes is an experience. It shook me up when I first saw it and seeing it again (with a live soundtrack, no less) on a big screen made my brain ache. In a good way.
The following clip is a 2008 live version of Vessel in Vain, the song that plays over the film’s opening credits, The soundtrack to DSM is marvellous – Americana really works over scenes of violence in the damp English Countryside.