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God will forgive them. He'll forgive them and allow them into heaven. I can't live with that.—Richard, Opening Lines
Dead Man's Shoes is a British revenge flick directed by Shane Meadows, who co-wrote it with star Paddy Considine.
Richard is a squaddie who has left the army and returned to his home town. Not for a happy family reunion, but to brutally murder the people who tormented his mentally retarded younger brother, Anthony, after he left to join the forces.
Notable for its very dark tone, a squalid setting in a dismal overcast town and standout performances from Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch and Toby Kebbell who were all nominated for awards for this film.
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
- Actor Allusion: The boxing gloves hanging up in Sonny's house (actor Gary Stretch is a professional boxer).
- The Alleged Car: The gangsters drive a somewhat pathetic Citroën 2CV.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Richard's favorite tactic for freaking people out is to leave evidence that he's been on their turf
- Aloof Big Brother: is putting it nicely.
- Anti-Hero: Richard is a vicious and bloodthirsty torturer and murderer, but at least he's getting revenge on the bad guys.
- Until you find out that he actually hated his brother and just wants the voices in his head to stop.
- The Atoner: This is a possible interpretation for Richard's actions. He actually hated and was disgusted by his brother's mental condition, and his revenge on the bullies who tormented and drove Anthony to suicide are at least partly driven by guilt.
- The final member of the gang Richard hunts down is also depicted to be this, being the only member we see express genuine remorse over their actions towards Anthony (as opposed to simply fear of his brother's retribution) and having moved away from his former life.
- Beard of Sorrow: In Flash Back we see Richard clean shaven in his army uniform at his brother's funeral, yet in the present day he's got a somewhat scraggly beard. Later played with as it's gradually revealed that Richard's feelings towards his brother weren't what we thought they were at the time; he was actually disgusted by his disabilities.
- Best Served Cold: As especially evidenced by his confrontation with Sonny, Richard is completely calm and calculated in his execution.
- Black And Very Dark Grey Morality: And who's black and who's grey shifts very rapidly.
- Black Comedy: There are some moments of very dark humour sprinkled throughout.
- Blood on These Hands: Richard says it, and soon afterwards Mark illustrates it nicely.
- The Bully: All of the gang members, but especially Sonny.
- Bully Hunter: Guess who?
- Dead All Along: Anthony has been in Richard's head the whole time, and has clearly driven him completely mad.
- Deliberately Monochrome: the flashbacks.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: The gearbox breaking.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Depends on your take; Richard's schtick is to inflict as much damage on the miscreants that they inflicted on him. Not only does he kill quite horribly in cold blood, he also mentally tortures them before he kills them.
- Driven to Suicide: Anthony. And Richard, in a way.
- Drugs Are Bad: "You know why people give kids drugs? So they can control their minds. 'cause they're fucking weak-minded themselves."
- Foreshadowing: Both the aforementioned conversation about the school sports day, and the lyrics to the opening track Vessel in Vain.
- Anthony is never seen without Richard, and is always wearing the same clothes as in the flashbacks.
- Flash Back: Anthony's story is told in grainy monochrome flashbacks.
- Gas Mask Mooks: Invoked by Richard, who uses one to freak out the drugged gangsters.
Herbie: [delirious with terror] There was an elephant!
- He Who Fights Monsters: Richard; "You, you were supposed to be a monster - now I'm the fucking beast. There's blood on my hands, from what you made me do."
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: Richard's "suicide" scene.
- I Have a Family
- I Just Shot Al In The Face: Needless to say, Richard is greatly amused.
- Implacable Man: Richard, particularly the scene where he comes slowly striding up to a car full of gangsters with an axe in hand, as they try desperately to start the car.
- Improv: Many of the scenes, especially those of the villains chatting to one another, were improvised.
- Intoxication Ensues / Mushroom Samba: Invoked, and Played for Drama (although there are some comedic moments as well). Richard wants them hallucinating so his Mind Screw will be all the scarier.
- It's also used as a method of forcing the gangsters to "empathise" by giving them the same mental capacity as his brother.
- It's Personal: And how.
- The Midlands: Like all of Shane Meadows' movies, this is the setting.
- Mind Screw: In-universe
- Mood Whiplash: The film frequently segues from light-hearted banter to some pretty graphic physical or psychological violence.
- Mook Horror Show: In particular the Mushroom Samba scene. Coming downstairs, stoned, to find a man in a gas mask stanring through the window? Yikes.
- Murder-Suicide: This is Richard's plan.
- Pay Evil Unto Evil: Not only is Richard determined to kill 'em all but he wants to inflict just as much psychological damage as was dished out to his brother.
- Revenge: Richard wants to avenge the trauma suffered by his brother Anthony
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Richard's quest to kill the gang of petty criminals who tormented his brother.
- Rule of Scary: Why is he wearing a gas mask? Because it's fucking creepy.
- Richard manages to start off the film making an apology a disturbing experience for the recipient.
- Scenery Porn: There are a lot of lovely shots of the beautiful scenery of the Midlands -- all the better to contrast with the dismal, miserable and squalid village setting.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: "I love English cock." And loads of others.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: a possible interpretation of Richard.
- Soundtrack Dissonance
- Spot of Tea: Richard puts a pile of stolen drugs in the kettle, reducing the remnants of the gang to drooling imbeciles after they make tea.
- These Hands Have Killed: Mark
- Time Passes Montage: The movie begins with a montage of Super8 footage of Richard and Anthony growing up.
- Vigilante Man