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With: Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey, Rebecca Hall, John Henshaw, Anthony Flanagan, Warren Clarke, Jennifer Hennessy, Paddy Considine, James Fox, David Calder, Nicholas Woodeson, Ron Cook, Maxine Peake, Tony Pitts, Jim Carter, Lisa Howard, Chris Walker, Shaun Dooley, Sean Bean, Sean Harris, Steven Robertson, Tony Mooney, Michelle Dockery, Andrew Cryer, Mark Addy, Peter Mullan, Gerard Kearns, Lesley Sharp, Robert Sheehan
Written by: Tony Grisoni, based on a novel by David Peace
Directed by: Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 308
Date: 09/29/2010

Red Riding Trilogy (2010)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Murder History

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Screenwriter Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, In This World) adapted three cult crime novels by David Peace and they became this trilogy, with three directors contributing to one part each. Set in 1974, 1980 and 1983, they deal with reporters, cops, corruption and various crimes centered around the Yorkshire Ripper case.

Red Riding: 1974 stars Andrew Garfield as Eddie Dunford, a rookie reporter for the Yorkshire Post, who follows up on a link between several missing girls. The story more or less goes through the motions of a thriller, but in slightly backhanded, more cynical ways. His reporter friend Barry Gannon (Anthony Flanagan), who dug too deep into local corruption, is mysteriously killed, and Eddie begins sleeping with the mother (Rebecca Hall) of one of the missing girls. This brings him to a powerful businessman, John Dawson (Sean Bean), whom he suspects has something to do with the crimes (one of the girls' bodies was found on a Dawson worksite). During the course of his investigations, Eddie is pummeled and beat up more times and far worse than even Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly. Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots, Becoming Jane) directs with plenty of appealing grittiness, and he manages to keep the movie's extreme violence and cynicism buoyed with some of the more comforting genre conventions.

Red Riding: 1980 stars Paddy Considine as cop Peter Hunter, assigned to once and for all catch the Yorkshire Ripper. He assembles a staff, beings pouring through all the files and interviewing all the cops who were there. Everyone seems to resent his newcomer status and the extra power he has been given. Moreover, Peter has his own, personal troubles, given that he has had an affair with one of the members of his staff, Helen (Maxine Peake), and that his wife is in the middle of a troubled pregnancy at home. His investigation seems to go backwards, and he makes enemies faster than he can uncover any new information. At the end, the Yorkshire Ripper is caught, and confesses to all but one key murder. This episode was directed by Oscar-winner James Marsh (Wisconsin Death Trip, The King, Man on Wire), whose close-up, off-kilter style fits this material very well.

Red Riding: 1983 focuses on Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey), who appears in all three chapters. He is steeped in corruption, connected with entrepreneur John Dawson (Sean Bean), but begins to question whether he's doing the right thing. That one unsolved murder is still eating away at people, and there's pressure to tie it up, even if the wrong person gets the blame. Meanwhile, lawyer John Piggott (Mark Addy), is asked to look into the case of Michael Myshkin (Daniel Mays), who was forced into confessing for the Ripper murders and still languishes in jail because of the one remaining, unsolved murder. Reverend Martin Laws (Peter Mullan) also becomes a more important character in this entry. Anand Tucker -- who very recently assaulted multiplexes with the by-the-numbers romantic comedy Leap Year -- is the director here, but he somehow molds his soft style to fit the general tone of the material, and this entry is just as strong as the others.

On the whole, Red Riding is highly convoluted, and not always easy to follow. It was easy for me to recognize characters by their faces, but there are a lot of names to remember, and I was not always 100% on track with the movie. But patience and persistence does pay off, and things do come together and make sense. Overall, the movie skirts the edges of a standard police procedural, but it seems literally contaminated by corruption; it seeps in through the edges and gets denser and ranker as the stories go along. Just when you think you have a scene or a subplot figured out, it turns sour, but in a most powerful way. It's not easy to watch, but addicting and rewarding.

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