Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Red Riding Trilogy

The Red Riding Trilogy is a series of films made for British television that deals with a serial killer in London. Each of the three films takes place in a different year with a different director and a different cast, but all have the same screenwriter. Because of the way the series is constructed it presents a difficulty in reviewing. First, there are different styles to review in each film yet they are all trying to tell the same story. So, each film does not stand on its own and the three films should probably be reviewed as one. Yet, because each director brings a different style, I will offer a rating to each individual film, and then an all-inclusive rating at the end. 
Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1974
A little girl disappears and young greenhorn reporter begins to investigate. The girl's body is found and the journalist ties it to past murders within the same area. As he begins to dig deeper, he finds himself uncovering things some powerful people (including the police) don't want uncovered and he eventually finds his life in jeopardy. This first entry is exquisitely shot and directed by Julian Jarrold, and it builds up intensity, especially in the end. But this is a hard movie to follow, especially with the cockney English accents. It is also frustrating how little we know at the end, and you can already tell that these films were meant to be viewed as a whole and cannot stand alone individually.
*** stars
Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1980
It is six years later and people are afraid to leave their homes. The Yorkshire Ripper has just claimed his 13th victim and the police department must act. They decide to form an investigative squad with Paul Hunter at the helm, a despised man due to his past work investigating cops. Paul and his crew uncover police corruption at the heart of the case, and the further he digs the more troubled his life becomes. Like RR 1974, 1980 is very well shot and directed, and Paddy Constantine is fine as Hunter. Still, the film is again hard to follow and many questions remain unanswered. Also, there is almost no tangible connection between this and the first film. Not that that is bad, it is just not what I expected out of these films.
*** stars
Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1983
 All comes together this brilliant final chapter which contains everything that was good about the first two films along with the clarity that was lacking in those films. As another young girl disappears, we are given two investigators who delve in the case. The first is a verteran cop who has been on the case since the beginning, who now begins to look at the case with new eyes as his conscience begins to bother him. The second protagonist is the unlikely, rotund attorney, son of a corrupt Yorkshire policeman, who takes the case of his neighbor who is imprisoned for the murders. As he reluctantly gets further and further into the case, he begins to sense something fishy going on, and begins to delve deeper. Wonderfully filmed and acted, providing the desired closure.
**** stars
This ends up being a great series but I would recommend watching them as a whole if you have 5 hours to spare. Also, watch it with the subtitles and with your undivided attention. In the end, I think you will find this to be a very deserving crime saga.
***1/2 stars