Dead Man's Shoes (2004 film)

Dead Man's Shoes is a 2004 British psychological thriller film directed by Shane Meadows, who co-wrote with Paul Fraser and Paddy Considine, who also starred in the lead role. The film co-stars Toby Kebbell, Gary Stretch and Stuart Wolfenden. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 1 October 2004 and in the United States on 12 May 2006. The film was shot in three weeks in the summer of 2003.

Dead Man's Shoes
UK Film poster
Directed byShane Meadows
Produced by
Written by
Music by
CinematographyDanny Cohen
Edited by
  • Celia Haining
  • Lucas Roche
  • Chris Wyatt
Distributed byOptimum Releasing
Release date
  • 1 October 2004 (2004-10-01)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£183,740 (UK) / $414,736 (Worldwide)[2][3]


The story details the return of Richard to his home town of Matlock, Derbyshire in the Peak District, England, after serving as a paratrooper in the British Army. Richard and his younger, mentally-impaired brother Anthony, camp at an abandoned farm near the town. Flashbacks reveal Anthony's abuse by a group of drug dealers in the town; Richard vows to take revenge.

Richard has a face-to-face confrontation with Herbie, one of the abusers, who does not recognise him at first. Later, Herbie and friends Soz and Tuff are in a flat taking drugs. He tells them about the confrontation, and states he thinks the man might be Anthony's brother, who has been away serving in the army. When Herbie leaves he sees a man in a military gas mask banging on the front door of the block. Soz and Tuff run outside but the man is nowhere to be seen. When they go back into their flat they discover Richard has ransacked it, stolen the drugs and spray painted the words "Cheyne Stoking", a pun on the scientific name for the pattern of breathing a human being goes into when they are dying.

The next day the thugs visit Sonny, the de facto leader of the gang, to explain where the drugs went. When they meet, Sonny has had his face painted but doesn't realise. The other gang members arrive during this time and they have had their hair and clothes painted as well. They all suspect one another of playing games until Herbie states that the man he saw in the pool hall is Richard, Anthony's brother. All of the gang become silent as they realise that Richard is back in town.

The men encounter Richard while driving in their Citroën 2CV. He makes it clear that he is not scared of any of them and invites them to come and find him at the old farm where he is staying. The gang leaves with Sonny visibly concerned at Richard's apparent lack of fear. That evening, while the gang are hiding out and playing cards, Sonny decides that they should shoot Richard. When one of the members leaves, Richard (having sneaked into the house) brutally kills him with an axe, using the dead man's blood to smear the words "One Down" on the wall.

The next morning, they take their car and go to the farm where Richard is staying with Anthony. Sending in Big Al (one of their members) to draw Richard out, Sonny prepares to shoot him with a rifle and their only round. However, he misses and kills Al. With no rounds remaining in the rifle they retreat and return to town, while Richard smiles.

The surviving members stop at a local petrol station where the car breaks down and Tuff runs off, scared of Richard's revenge. Later at Sonny's house, they arm themselves and search the place, expecting Richard to be there. They do not find him, although he is hiding in the kitchen pantry. While they are upstairs Richard laces their kettle with a cocktail of the drugs he took from the gang earlier in the film. The three men become completely intoxicated a few hours later and Richard reappears to kill them one by one. He toys with them, dancing and joking. He shoots Sonny in the head, and kills Soz with an upward palm strike. He then sits Herbie down and brings out a suitcase, which has Tuff's corpse inside. Richard then tells him he is a good man and will let him live if he tells him where the final gang member is as he left the gang years before. He tells him without hesitation and Richard hugs him. But he finds Herbie's knife and asks him if it was to be used on him. Herbie lies at first then tells the truth, but Richard stabs him regardless. Richard leaves right after.

The next day, Richard arrives in a nearby town where the final gang member, Mark, lives with his wife and two boys. He talks with the children's mother and asks her to let her husband know that he is Richard, Anthony's brother. When Mark returns home, she explains the conversation to her husband. Terrified, he tells her how the gang abused Anthony. The abuse culminated with them pretending to hang him at a local ruined castle whilst he was high on acid. This final episode of abuse culminates with Anthony actually hanging himself after his 'friends' run off. It then becomes clear that Richard has been alone the whole time, and talking to a vision of his dead brother.

The next morning, Richard sneaks into Mark's house and takes him hostage using a knife. He makes him drive to the same ruined castle where Anthony hanged himself and demands he tell him his part in what happened. Mark explains how his fault was in not stopping the abuse. Richard confesses to his crimes against the other men, and reveals that he thought of Anthony as an embarrassment to him because of his mental disabilities. He tells Mark how he now feels like the monster and that he simply wants to lie down with his brother. Richard gives the knife to Mark and demands that he kill him lest he continue his monstrous ways. Mark refuses but Richard clasps his hands and pulls them towards him. Mark eventually stabs and kills Richard, then stumbles away.



After completing Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, Shane Meadows had gone on a hiatus. Paddy Considine had made the short film My Wrongs which was the first project of Warp Films. Considine introduced Meadows to Warp's Mark Herbert and showed him some of their earlier short films. Based on those, Herbert agreed to fund the making of a movie.[4]

Meadows was keen to get back to his short film roots and co-wrote the script with Considine and his long time collaborator Paul Fraser. Originally intended to be a black comedy about an heroic social worker based on a real life event that Considine had come across, the story took a darker turn when Meadows remembered a friend with disabilities who had died when he was young.[5] Taking inspiration from these real life situations that they had experienced and people that they had encountered and the feel of exploitation films,[6] Meadows and Considine turned in a story outline originally titled The Skull. There was no definitive script, with most of the scenes and lines existing as a rough draft.[7] As a result, most of the dialogue and set pieces were improvised on set.[8]

Toby Kebbell was cast at short notice after the actor who had originally been intended to play the character of Anthony dropped out due to concerns about playing the learning difficulties realistically. The character was rewritten from an older brother to a younger brother accordingly.[9] Similarly, former boxer Gary Stretch was hired at the eleventh hour after expressing interest in making films in Britain. Dead Man's Shoes was the screen debut for both actors.[10] It was also the first film that Jo Hartley featured in.[11] Emily Aston had appeared on television but Dead Man's Shoes was also her first feature film role.[12]

Because of the nature of low budget film making, numerous other changes from the script were made virtually on the fly. Neil Bell's character was scripted to be killed off first, but because of how well he worked on set, it was decided that another character would die and the scene was rewritten overnight. A violent confrontation between Richard and the gang was also changed to the scene in which Richard threatens Sonny.[13]

Filming took place in and around the town of Matlock, Derbyshire in May 2003, with re-shoots and pick up shots taken in October the same year. The farm where Richard and Anthony stay is located in Bonsall. Darley Dale, Tansley and Riber feature heavily. The ending was shot at Riber Castle.[14] The film took three weeks to shoot. Because of the low budget, the entire film crew and actors were transported in a single minibus.[15]

The Citroen 2CV used in the film was inspired by an acquantance of Shane Meadows, who had a similar car. The 2CV still exists and was recently seen at a Citroen themed car show, albeit having been repainted.[16] The 2CV also featured in the black comedy series Shameless.[17]


The film features music from, among others, Aphex Twin. Gavin Clark and Nick Hemming, both regular collaborators with Shane Meadows, contributed to the soundtrack. Several additional songs written by other artists on Warp Records appear on the film's soundtrack.


Dead Man's Shoes
Soundtrack album by
various artists
Released4 October 2004

The soundtrack album was released by Warp Records in October 2004.

  1. Smog – "Vessel in Vain"
  2. Calexico – "Untitled II"
  3. Calexico – "Untitled III"
  4. Adem – "Statued"
  5. Calexico – "Ritual Road Map"
  6. Laurent Garnier – "Forgotten Thoughts"
  7. The Earlies – "Morning Wonder"
  8. Richard Hawley – "Steel 2"
  9. Clayhill – "Afterlight"
  10. Calexico – "Crooked Road and the Briar"
  11. Lucky Dragons – "Heartbreaker"
  12. Gravenhurst – "The Diver"
  13. Cul de Sac – "I Remember Nothing More"
  14. P.G. Six – "The Fallen Leaves That Jewel the Ground"
  15. Amor Belhom Duo B C – "Pluie Sans Nuages"
  16. Aphex Twin – "Nanou 2"
  17. M. Ward – "Dead Man"
  18. DM & Jemini – "The Only One"

Tracks that appeared in the film but not on the soundtrack album include "Monkey Hair Hide" by The Leisure Society, "A King at Night" by Bonnie "Prince" Billy, "De Profundis" by Arvo Pärt, "Let My Prayer Arise" by Dmitry Bortniansky, sung by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, "Chinese Water Python" by Robyn Hitchcock, "Sunny Days" by Position Normal and "The Only One" Featuring. Jemini by Danger Mouse.

Graphic novelEdit

A limited-edition graphic novel adapted and illustrated by Anjan Sarkar and based on the script was published to tie in with the release of the film. The book was Warp's first publishing effort.[18] Sarkar had worked on the storyboards for the movie, as well as those for My Wrongs and used his work as the basis for the adaptation, which expanded certain scenes and ideas than those seen in the movie. The book was reissued for Warp Films' tenth anniversary.[19]


Writing in The Observer, Philip French called the film "A very skilful, superbly edited piece of moviemaking".[20] The Daily Telegraph wrote that the film was "not for the faint hearted".[21] Upon release in the United States, The New York Times stated that the film '"had style and the story is told with authority“ but otherwise felt it was run of the mill.[22] When released in Australia in October 2006, it was described as "very moralistic" and "thrilling."[23] The film was ranked number 180 in Empire magazine's "201 Greatest Movies of All Time" feature in the March 2006 issue. It also made other appearances in the magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time where it was ranked at number 462[24] and in October 2011 where it came 27th in the "100 Best British Films Ever."[25] In celebration of their 200th issue in October 2012, Total Film named it the twelfth best film of the magazine's lifetime.[26] It was ranked number 92 in Time Out's list of the 100 best British films.

Paddy Considine won "Best British Actor" at the 2005 Empire Awards, beating, among others, Simon Pegg for Shaun of the Dead and Daniel Craig for Layer Cake. Dead Man's Shoes was nominated for eight British Independent Film Awards. Toby Kebbell was nominated for Best Newcomer while Gary Stretch was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award at the same ceremony.[27]

Live re-scoreEdit

On 17 November 2012, as part of Warp Films 10-year anniversary celebrations (WarpFilms10), Dead Man's Shoes was re-scored live at the Magna Science and Adventure Centre in Rotherham by musicians Gavin Clark, Joel Cadbury, Jah Wobble and more. Its popularity led to a follow-up event in London as part of the Warp Films season at BFI Southbank on 29 March 2013 at the Southbank Centre's BFI Sonic Cinema. Featuring Gavin Clark (Clayhill, UNKLE), Joel Cadbury (UNKLE, South), Ali Friend (Clayhill), Ted Barnes (Clayhill), Jeff Wootton, Daisy Palmer (Goldfrapp) and Helen Boulding. All performances feature a special introduction from Paddy Considine.[28]


  1. ^ "Does money matter?". The Observer. 4 November 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Dead Man's Shoes". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Dead Man's Shoes". The Numbers.
  4. ^ Port Magazine
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Guardian
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ BBC
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ The Observer
  21. ^ The Daily Telegraph
  22. ^ The New York Times
  23. ^
  24. ^ "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  25. ^ "The 100 Best British Films Ever," Empire
  26. ^ "50 Best Movies of Total Film Magazine's Lifetime". Total Film. 2012.
  27. ^
  28. ^ BFI

External linksEdit