Dead Man’s Shoes: an on-edge soldier returns home to find that local thugs have been taking advantage of his disabled brother; revenge is definitely on the cards. The story’s powerful, harrowing, chilling and hard to watch in parts (mostly the flashbacks). First time round I thought Paddy stole the show but on re-watching, his brother (Kebbell) is equally fantastic; most of the antagonists are on top form too. The soundtrack fits perfectly, making the overall ambiance more effective, disturbing you as much as the brief bursts of violence. There are some beautiful moments of black comedy in the spraypaint and comedy car – but they’re only momentary distractions. The only downside is that it feels padded out in parts, with a very long opening and plenty of scenic shots – although it could be argued that it adds to the film’s character. As a thriller, Dead Man’s Shoe is top-notch, and punches way above its low-budget social micro-thriller status.
Death Wish: A respectable architect becomes a crime-slaying vigilante after his family are assaulted by street punks. For a film this dark and serious, the acting is nothing short of comedy. Championed by the daughter, who looks like she’s winding up a pantomime audience. Everyone else involved – up to Bronson himself – doesn’t really aim much higher; unfortunately the wife’s short-spiel is the best in the movie. Given the atrocious crimes committed, the first group of antagonists (Hi Goldblum!) also feel like parody/goofy stereotypes. Still, the main scene of violence is brutal, graphic and unsettling – like a punch to the gut, which doesn’t happen to me very often. Hard to miss the overall critique of violence, and considering how much more this has to say than the average crime b-movie; just a shame that it falls down due to the poorly-drawn characters and bad acting. I don’t say this about many ‘classic’ movies, but Death Wish would greatly benefit from a modern, more serious, re-telling.