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Red Riding Trilogy (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Red Riding



Starring Andrew Garfield, Sean Bean, Rebecca Hall, Eddie Marsan, David Morrissey, John Henshaw, Anthony Flanagan and Warren Clarke.

Screenplay by Tony Grisoni.

Directed by Julian Jarrold.

Distributed by IFC Films. 102 minutes. Not Rated.


Starring Paddy Considine, Maxine Peake, Peter Mullan, Tony Pitts, Sean Harris, Tony Mooney, David Morrissey, Warren Clarke, Robert Sheehan and Julia Ford.

Screenplay by Tony Grisoni.

Directed by James Marsh.

Distributed by IFC Films. 93 minutes. Not Rated.


Starring David Morrissey, Mark Addy, Warren Clarke, Peter Mullan, Robert Sheehan, Jim Carter, Shaun Dooley, Daniel Mays and Gerard Kearns.

Screenplay by Tony Grisoni.

Directed by Anand Tucker.

Distributed by IFC Films. 100 minutes. Not Rated.

This British import was actually a made as a television miniseries across the pond. It the States it was cut up into the three main parts and given theatrical release – both separately and as an over five-hour marathon viewing experience.

Based on a series of four acclaimed books by David Peace (a Red Riding: 1977 novel was not filmed as part of the series), The Red Riding Trilogy tells the story of two infamous criminal cases which took place in Yorkshire, England in the 1970s and 80s. Red Riding: 1974 is based on a series of child murders in the region and the other two films are about the murderer who became known as The Yorkshire Ripper.

However, the murders themselves are not the central thrust of the films. Instead, much like David Fincher’s Zodiac, a somewhat similar look at the hunt for a 1970s serial killer, Red Riding is a pitch-black look at how horrific acts of violence come to affect a community, bringing to light much of the ugliness, the sordidness, the corruption, and the rot which is normally hidden just out of sight. Also, like Zodiac, the story of the murders is told mostly through the policemen and journalists who travel to the heart of darkness in an often-futile attempt to combat evil.

It is an interesting stylistic choice that even though all three parts are based on interlocked novels, have recurring characters, and were written by the same screenwriter, the three parts of the series are directed by different filmmakers in different styles with different lead characters. 1974 is a dark, moody, and symbolic film noir, 1980 is more of a straight police procedural and 1983 is tragic psychological drama.

And while all three films work as stand-alone tales, the true power of the story only comes completely alive when all the chapters are watched together.

Red Riding: 1974 was directed by Julian Jerrold (Becoming Jane) and follows a cocky crime reporter (Andrew Garfield) who comes to Yorkshire to break the child murder case but becomes involved with the mother of one of the victims and embroiled in the violent politics and legal system of the town.

Red Riding: 1980 was directed by James Marsh (last year’s Best Documentary Oscar nominee Man on Wire) and looks at the latest detective to head the Ripper task force (Paddy Considine). He searches for clues at the same time that other policemen and local politicians endeavor to undermine his authority.

Red Riding: 1983 was directed by Anand Tucker (Shopgirl) and brings the story as close to completion as possible, tracking both a detective (David Morrissey) and a lawyer (Mark Addy) who endeavor to find absolution by proving that the wrong people have been jailed for the killings.

More than anything else, these films are stinging exposes of the city of Yorkshire itself, suggesting that the corruption and avarice and sheer incompetence in the town is simply staggering. The entire city appears to be a viper’s nest of bad cops, shady businessmen, out-of-control thugs, fallen clergy and desperate women.

Red Riding is tense, surprising, and almost inevitably horribly cynical and resigned to the idea of absolute power corrupting absolutely. The good guys are almost inevitably punished while the bad guys rarely pay for their crimes and sins.

Not a horribly uplifting message, yet it is undoubtedly much more often true than we would like. 

I don’t know how accurate the depiction of the times and crimes of Yorkshire are, but Red Riding makes for a mostly very gripping saga. That said, watching five hours straight through is a little much, Red Riding works better as a mini-series in which you watch one episode each night.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 13, 2010.


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