Edinburgh International Film Festival diary, 22 August

In his latest EIFF diary, film critic Alistair Harkness celebrates Shane Meadows’ brutal masterpiece Dead Man’s Shoes.

Notwithstanding the strange decision to give it a big gala retrospective screening a year shy of its 20th anniversary, it’s always good to revisit Shane Meadows’ revenge movie Dead Man’s Shoes. I remember well when it had its world premiere at EIFF back in 2004. Coming off the back of his sprawling romantic comedy Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, it was a film with something to prove and did it ever.

A brutal, primal tale of an ex-soldier (Paddy Considine) returning to his Derbyshire hometown to hunt down the low-level criminals who’ve messed with his vulnerable younger brother (Toby Kebbell), it confirmed Considine as one of Britain’s most forceful and versatile actors and put Kebbell on a direct path to Hollywood. With its indelible images — that creepy gas mask — and brilliant ear and eye for regional specificity, it also transcended its wealth of influences (First Blood, Paul Schrader) to stand alongside Get Carter as one of the few British genre films to pack a cinematic punch all its own.

Hide Ad

Indeed, its influence can be seen almost nowhere in British cinema in the years since, with only Ben Wheatley (Kill List) and London to Brighton director Paul Andrew Williams (whose recent horror-adjacent Bull would make for a great double bill) matching Meadows’ flair for combining hard-edged genre thrills with a distinctive brand of dark humour and kitchen-sink grot.

Meadows himself went on to make his other masterpiece, This is England, followed by a couple of scrappy micro-budget features and a fan-boyish doc on the Stone Roses. Then we lost him completely to television, the draw and prestige of high-end drama clearly more attractive than filling out box-ticking funding applications. Maybe an outpouring of love for Dead Man’s Shoes will hasten a return. British cinema could do with him.

Dead Man’s Shoes screens at EIFF tonight. For more information and tickets visit: https://www.eif.co.uk/edinburgh-international-film-festival