CIFF Review: RED RIDING Films - We Are Movie Geeks

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Chicago International Film Fest 2009 – Review: Red Riding: 1974 & 1980

Red Riding, a British crime drama in three parts, comes to us from across the Atlantic courtesy of Tony Grisoni (Tideland, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas), who adapted the movies from the similarly titled novels by David Peace.

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 Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield), 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, and especially from Rebecca Hall as Paula. 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, covering almost 10 years in the world of the films.

In the second film, 1980, 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) 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 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, 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…

Red Riding, 1974: 3.5 out of 5

Red Riding, 1980: 4 out of 5

Red Riding, 1983: ????


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