Red Riding: 1974

Dir: Julian Jarrold
Star: Andrew Garfield, Sean Bean, Rebecca Hall, David Morrisey

Hot-shot young journalist Eddie Dunford (Garfield) returns to Yorkshire after a failed attempt to make it in London. Assigned the job of covering a missing girl for his newspaper, he comes to believe that the disapperanace is connected to other children who have vanished over the past years. The local police, under Detective Superintendent Jobson (Morrissey) seem uninterested in the suggestion, but Eddie persists, even when warned by a colleague that he is getting into dangerous territoy - a colleague who ends up dead, decapitated in a what appears to be a freak accident. Eddie persists, becoming involved with Paula Garland (Hall), the mother of a previous victim who is also seeing local building tycoon, John Dawson (Bean). He owns the land where one of the murdered girls is - tortured, raped, and strangled, with swan wings stitched into her back. This could well be the story of a lifetime for Eddie; if only he can live long enough to find out what's going on.

It's grim up North. That seems to be the message here, with society overseen by a cartel of corrupt cops, businessmen and politicians who, as stated explicitly at one point, "Do what we want" - up to, and including, abduction, torture, child abuse and murder. It's certainly a world for which Dunford is completely unprepared, and the lure of Garland only acts as a dangerous distraction. The web of deceit, conspiracy and underlying current of violence is impressive, though the failure to explain significant elements, e.g. the swan wings, is a shame. You may want to track down subtitles too, as the accents here are often as thick as a black pudding. Given the last thing time we saw Bean, he was running around Middle-earth, this is pretty different, and it's good to see him back on villainous territory. Cross 1970's Yorkshire off the places we'll be visiting in our time-machine, however.

[April 2011]

North by North-West
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Red Riding: 1980

Dir: James Marsh
Star: Paddy Considine, Maxine Peake, Sean Harris, Jim Carter

I remember the Yorkshire Ripper investigation pretty clearly, being 14 at the time - in particular, the tape, allegedly by him, that diverted so much police manpower on a wild-goose chase. That's one of the elements here, as Peter Hunter (Considine) is brought in to assess proceedings, having previously investigated the shootout which ended the first film. Among his team are Helen Marshall (Peake), his former lover, and local liaison Bob Craven (Harris), who clearly has no love for Hunter or the purpose of his presence. Attention is drawn to the murder of one prostitute, allegedly by the Ripper. But as Hunter and his crew pick away at that case, they discover that the culprit may be closer to home than that - and possibly even tied to the shootout. However, those involved soon show they won't just sit back and let their actions be exposed.

Maybe it's just middle-movie syndrome. This one didn't hold my attention as well as its predecessor. Hunter is a pretty bland hero (it's easy to see why he was nick-named “Saint Cunt” by the locals in his previous time there), and his relationship with Marshall is neither convincing not interesting. It seems to be drawing a parallel between the hero and the Ripper, both implacably set in opposition to the Yorkshire police. Admittedly, with radically different reasons but only the killer has the moral honesty to admit to it and the reasons why. However, it's unconvincing at best, horribly cliched at worst i.e. its portrayal of Mrs. Hunter seems to come from bad soap-opera, and is an aspect that should have been junked. It does seem to have a natural progression from part one, in that the corruption blossoming there has now taken over completely, and there isn't much room for optimism or hope in the face of that monster. If there's such a thing as too much bleakness, this is guilty of it.

[April 2011]

The Yorkshire Moors Murderers
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Red Riding: 1983

Dir: Anand Tucker
Star: Mark Addy, David Morrisey, Saskia Reeves, Gerard Kearns

The final film in the trilogy does tie things up satisfactorily, but requires so much leaping back and forth, I kept expecting a blue police-box to materialize. It centers on two figures, cop Maurice Jobson (Morrissey) and solicitor John Piggott (Addy), both of whom are seeking redemption of some kind - the former for his ongoing role in the corruption and criminal activity of the previous decade, the latter trying to restore his family reputation, destroyed by his father, who was a notoriously corrupt policeman. They form an unwitting team, after the abduction of another child, returning to the pattern of part one. This does expose the dubious conviction of a mental defective for the crimes depicted there, but the police simply find another scapegoat, a friend of the original "perpetrator." However, working the case from opposite ends, Jobson and Piggott gradually reveal the truth, and find out the true criminal.

Which, to be honest, is a bit of a disappointment. I don't want to give too much away, but after the first couple of movies, I was expecting something wide-ranging and conspiratorial. It's not really anything like that, and it means the series ends more with a whimper than a bang. I did like Piggott, who is about as far from the typical "hero" in these things as you can imagine. He's unwilling to get involved, and has any number of unpleasant personal habits - yet, he has a strong sense of right and wrong, which drive him even when it would be easier to quit. It's one of those films where the characters deserve a much better script than they get; here, the story even drags in a psychic, which is rarely more than a lazy device to allow the easy discovery of information necessary to the plot. By the end, while it has tied up most of the loose ends, others are ignored or disposed of in a confusing manner [we're still trying to work out who the body in the shed was at the end]. Overall, the series is a frustrating exercise: I can see the aim, and it occasionally works brilliantly, but it's a very qualified success.

[April 2011]

You had it lucky...
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