Movie Review Triptych: Red Riding 1974, 1980, 1983
“To the North, where we do what we bloody want!” a phrase that makes an appearance in all three of these films that comprise the whole piece that is “Red Riding” This is an adaptation of the novel by David Peace and was inspired by the “Yorkshire Ripper” case that raged in the 70’s through to 1981 with the capture of the “Ripper” Peter Sutcliffe.
The film, actually three films, by different directors and originally aired as BBC specials. The films were later put out here in the states as standard movie theater fair.
A cub reporter gets a tip on the killings of young girls in the Yorkshire area. He goes to the North to investigate the story. He finds a gypsy village that has been utterly destroyed by locals who hate them.
He follows the story and finds himself the target of the local constabulary and a powerful man. Men all, who seem to be a part of the missing girls case.
This story is the first in the series and lays out much of what will be needed/revealed in the final tale in 1983. The imagery is dark and the serial homicides center around the girls being laid out with swan wings attached to them in some kind of mystical tableaux.
The acting is great but the dialog can be hard to understand with the Northern accents though. If you are not good with dialects, you may find yourself turning on the subtitles or rewinding now and then.
Ultimately the story is layered and may leave you confused, but that I think is part of the appeal. After all this is a mystery genre movie.
The second of the films takes place post the “capture” of the alleged “Ripper” Evidence and a disappearance of a new girl have cast a pall on the local constabulary’s conclusion of the case however. Thus this film starts out with the drafting of a new DCI from another office to take over and re-investigate the killings.
The man for the job is an honest man with one chink in his armor, an affair with a subordinate detective in his chain of command. The detective notes right away that things are not right in Yorkshire but can’t seem to get close to the real killer because the locals are running interference.
As the tension builds we see more and more clearly into the events and the players surrounding the investigation of the killings and their tactics. In the end the detective comes to the conclusion needed to re-open the case and perhaps locate the killer, but betrayal succeeds in the end.
This was the film that was the less image laden of the lot. However, the tension from the acting and story is key to the overall arc that will have you depressed and enthralled.
In this final installment of “Red Riding” you get the final perspective on the whole case and the stories of the people involved. This was the most violent and uncomfortable of the films for visual and story content but the context that the images provide lend to the power of all of the films collectively.
A power that culminates in the final scenes that make you stand up, pump your fist in the air and say YES! when the killer gets his due. Much of this feeling comes from seeing the many broken people who have been destroyed in various ways by the cabal that the killer is protected by for their own reasons. A cabal that treats the populace around them as cattle for their “We do what we want” mantra.
It is in this end that you get the multiple movies story lines finally intersecting with the perspective of one man central to the case and the events surrounding the investigation. The deeply twisted virulence that lives in the small ghetto in the north, the corruption of the authorities, and the bigger picture that centers on the one twisted soul you would not suspect to be the cause of it all.
This is a dark film as they all are, but this one ends at least in light.
Over all, I say see these films. If you are lucky enough to have them playing at the theater nearby see them there. If not, rent the DVD’s and watch them over a day or three. You will not be disappointed.