Originally released in 2004, Dead Man’s Shoes may have cemented the place of Uttoxeter-born director Shane Meadows among the brightest talents of his generation, just before he reached an even wider audience with the This is England series.
It takes certain kind of visionary to look at the picturesque landscape of small-town Derbyshire and choose it as a backdrop for a Western-influenced tale of violent revenge, but the streets of Matlock and its neighbouring villages play a starring role around leading man and co-writer Paddy Considine.
Though the film has gained cult classic status, for many years it has been unavailable for screening in cinemas. It is now being given a nationwide re-release courtesy of Blue Finch Films, starting with a special event at the British Film Institute on Tuesday, September 12, then in selected venues including the Belper Ritz from September 15.
Speaking to Scottish culture magazine the Wee Review recently, Meadows said: “We did it really low budget, so it wasn’t just like a classic revenge story.
“It’s got humour in there and a lot humanity and I think that’s maybe what resonated with people. It’s a bit different in that it’s small town crooks, rather than big gangsters in London.”
He added: “[It was] probably the most fun I’ve ever had. We had so little equipment. We didn’t have any dollies or tracks. We had very few lights, a very small crew. We didn’t really have any catering, and nowhere to sit at lunchtime.
“You realise that by taking things away everyone pulls together to make it. So what I can remember is it being the happiest shoot I’ve ever had.”
Now a Hollywood success, Dead Man’s Shoes gave Toby Kebbell his first film role, playing Anthony, the vulnerable younger brother of Considine’s Richard.
When Richard leaves their village to join the army, Anthony is taken in by Sonny (Gary Stretch), a controlling and vicious drug dealer, and his gang of lads.
Anthony becomes the gang’s pet and plaything, as they initiate him into their sordid worldly ways – but seven years later Richard returns seeking vengeance.