Dead Man’s Shoes (Meadows, 2004)
This review contains spoilers.
I’m calling this a remake of High Plains Drifter. I won’t get into the details of why, but be warned that I’m probably the only person who thinks this (so if you haven’t seen it, don’t go into expecting those comparisons to stand out). Putting that aside though, what you have here is a heartbreaking depiction of abuse and its residual effects. We’re treated to a caring yet vengeful protagonist (the abused man’s brother) who is basically doing what anyone who has ever had real reason for vengeance dreams of doing.
But despite the initial appearance of an endorsement for retribution, the film ends with the sad realization that revenge is more bitter than sweet. This doesn’t come about as a revelation to the protagonist, but instead as a revelation to the viewer in a convicting final scene full of more emotional agony than I ever would have predicted. (This sounds a heck of a lot more preachy than it actually is. I would actually probably argue that the protagonist’s actions are not meant to be necessarily viewed as ‘wrong’, but as ‘with consequence’.) Also, viewing the creation of a vengeful heart as similarly tragic to the initial wrongdoing is a very unique perspective. If you can stomach the jarring content (and a few guffaws in the storytelling), you’ll be rewarded with a staggering payoff. 8/10