Manoeuvring the revenge western template into modern day North West England, Shane Meadows' achieves this with voracious execution, deriving its palpable imagery and themes from fervently violent predecessors "Taxi Driver" and "High Plains Drifter", all the while measuring up to such influences even if it doesn't quite match them. Immersing the viewer from the outset in the plot with vague, somewhat limited establishing scenes or characterisation, Meadows operates on a guerrilla model in terms of cinematography, direction and script, allowing for an intimate, deeply affecting yet entirely stark and disturbing story to unfold at a progressive rate that never seems to override the integral aspects of the narrative. Meadows matches the hastened pace of the plot with low-budget, confounding savagery; certain pivotal scenes are aligned with the dark, powerful and uncompromising edginess reminiscent of early Martin Scorsese, albeit without adversely effecting its consummate self-contained volatility and originality.
Meadows composes a non-conforming thriller that defies its genre with verve, ensuring its more emotive values are communicated to the audience with plausibility, sincerity and authenticity. Meadows, as with other filmmakers who graduated onto higher production values, proves that budgetary constraints do not dictate the overall quality of a visual narrative; in fact, the vitality and potency of such alternative British films has rarely been replicated outside of independent cinema. Visceral, vicious and vital, "Dead Man's Shoes" fuses an alchemy of drama and thriller elements and succeeds in its attack on human evil in all of its forms, culminating in a harrowing final scene that fully hammers home the film's intent: revenge is not always sweet and the cold, clinical details illustrated in each of the vengeful executions are not gratuitously depicted, with our laconic, taciturn avenger being a dehumanised soldier who may or may not be motivated in his quest for retribution by his military training rather than out of deep love for his afflicted brother. Ingrained in the film's DNA is a sense of ambiguity and at its centre lies a tenuous morality, both of which are imperative for Meadows to imbue his characters with a semblance of three-dimensional development. "Dead Man's Shoes" is a short, sharp, shocking piece of independent cinema that firmly restrains, holding you in its grasp until releasing you at the final aerial shot.