Review: RED RIDING (Trilogy) 1974, 1980, 1983 - We Are Movie Geeks

General News

Review: RED RIDING (Trilogy) 1974, 1980, 1983

By  | 

The RED RIDING Trilogy, a gritty British crime drama in three parts, comes to us from across the Atlantic courtesy of Tony Grisoni (TIDELAND, FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS). Grisoni adapted the movies from the similarly titled novels written by David Peace.

Reviews of the first two installments were written by Adam, with additional commentary by Travis. This trilogy will play in its entirety in Saint Louis beginning Friday, April 9 through April 15. Showtimes and ticket info can be found at Landmark Cinema.


Directed by Julian Jarrold (KINKY BOOTS), the first installment is set in 1974 –as the title suggests– and plays like a 70’s era noir piece.  The story centers on young and reckless investigative reporter named Eddie Dunford, played by Andrew Garfield (THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS). Eddie is ambitious and a bit naive, following the story of three brutally murdered young girls and the possibility of a single serial killer responsible. In his search for a scoop, he crosses paths with corrupt cops on the take, a shady real estate mogul, and a femme fatale in the character of Paula, young widow and mother of one of the murdered children.

To be blunt, it’s not terribly difficult to finger the culprit before the movie is even halfway over. While the story may not be groundbreaking, however, the mood and style of the film are wonderfully grimy, reflecting the sleaziness of the world Eddie sees. The color schemes are all yellows and browns, as Eddie explores the dirty coal-mining villages and Gypsy camps of West Yorkshire, England in economic hard times. Shot in gritty 16mm, this film even looks like it came straight out of the 1970’s.

Great performances are given by the whole cast, especially from Rebecca Hall (THE PRESTIGE, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA) as Paula Garland. The true success of the film, however, is exposition: Eddie’s trip down the rabbit hole of corruption, greed, and malice in West Yorkshire prepares the viewer for the violent finale, as well as the next two installments, spanning over ten years covered in the trilogy.

Originally published Review by Adam during the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival


The second film, RED RIDING 1980, is directed by James Marsh (MAN ON WIRE). Here we meet Peter Hunter, a “squeaky clean” police inspector brought into West Yorkshire to oversee the apparently mishandled search for a serial killer and to root out possible police ineptitude and corruption. Hunter’s own dirty secrets are slowly revealed throughout the film, as well as his history with the West Yorkshire department, where he was brought in six years earlier to solve the mystery of a robbery and shooting rampage at a local high-class club.

While the first installment in the RED RIDING trilogy feels noir-ish, this second installment plays more like a murder mystery. The suspense is more palpable, the suspects more plentiful, and the body count higher. Paddy Considine (IN AMERICA, HOT FUZZ) gives an outstanding portrayal of Peter Hunter as a cop coming undone, combining the Inspector’s passion for justice with the guilt he feels over his personal and professional shortcomings. In contrast to the dirty working world seen in RED RIDING 1974, this film focuses on the sterile whites of the police department and the corruption lying beneath its neutral facade.

As of press time, I was unable to screen the final movie in the trilogy, RED RIDING 1983, so I leave this review –appropriately– as a cliffhanger. I have no doubt that the third film will be just as engrossing as the first two, though. All questions will certainly be answered, but will we be satisfied with the final state of affairs? Stay tuned…

Originally published Review by Adam during the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival


The third and final installment, RED RIDING 1983, is directed by Anand Tucker (HILARY AND JACKIE, SHOPGIRL). This time around, the story focuses on policeman Maurice Jobson, played by David Morrissey (THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL). Maurice is remorseful of his past actions and involvement within the West Yorkshire corruption that has run rampant for more than a decade. With a scape goat locked away as the Yorkshire Ripper, Maurice and a small-time lawyer stand alone against West Yorkshire’s corrupt powers that be while the real Yorkshire Killer has yet again added to his brutally depraved list of murders.

RED RIDING 1983 maintains the same tone of mystery as RED RIDING 1980, but brings the story full circle, revealing the true killer. The film dwells on Maurice as he wages an internal battle with his own conscience, visibly crumbling under the pressure of what he’s done and become. As he watches the West Yorkshire corruption continue around him, his regret begins to manifest as an urge to make things right. Mark Addy (THE FULL MONTY) plays the lawyer attempting to appeal the conviction of a mentally-handicapped man framed as the killer. His performance presents the character as an everyman of little stature who makes the difficult decision to fight the wrongs he sees so clearly occurring.

While the trilogy really is best viewed as such, RED RIDING 1983 is perhaps the best of the three, but all three installment are equally great. Also worth noting is Sean Bean (LORD OF THE RINGS, TROY) who delivers a great performance as the overly confident and dangerous businessman John Dawson, a recurring role throughout the trilogy.

Overall Thoughts:

Each film stands on its own, however when combined, the trilogy holds a certain epic quality that resonates throughout THE GODFATHER films, just not on the same level of awesome. One of the fascinating accomplishments of this trilogy is the way it maintains a consistent audio/visual feel throughout, despite using different directors, cinematographers and composers for each installment. Each film has its own unique touch, especially RED RIDING 1980, but all three carry a similar musical tone and the visual style holds the three films together, especially RED RIDING 1974 and 1983.

The story conveys a worst-case scenario, where the darker underbelly of the human mind and our greedy desire for money and power takes unfathomable control. What’s most disturbing about this three-part journey into how black a man’s heart can become, is that the Yorkshire Ripper, a killer who murders young girls and leaves their bodies to be found with actual swan wings sewn to their backs… the utter repulsion of this character is overshadowed by the unbelievable cruelty and lack of any sense of justice or moral responsibility displayed by the West Yorkshire authorities, driven by their lust for “doing whatever they want.”

Overall Combined Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Hopeless film enthusiast; reborn comic book geek; artist; collector; cookie connoisseur; curious to no end


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.