(2009) dir. James Marsh
Red Riding: 1980 is the second of the film trilogy Red Riding made initially for England’s Channel 4. This installment is directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire (2008)) and follows Red Riding: 1974. While the whole series, adapted by Tony Grisoni from a series of books by David Peace, follows the year-oriented installment plan, for some reason they skipped what would have been “part 2”, 1977. I don’t know why, perhaps budget reasons, narrative tightening?
Anyhow, the filmic part 2, Red Riding: 1980 picks up six years after the first installment and does recall certain incidents from that film, the bloody shoot-out in a local pub that was part of the first film’s finale. However, by 1980, the story if fixed upon the case of the real-life Yorkshire Ripper, who murdered 13 women over a five year period. But the story isn’t just about the real crimes, though it starts off with the discovery of one of the victims. The story is really concerned with the over-rife corruption in Yorkshire in this period, one in which the police’s failures to find and convict the killer has led to opportunity to hide other crimes under the Ripper’s style.
A hot-shot officer from the South is sent up North to perform his own investigation of the crimes, empowered by the State and not beholding to the local magistrates. He is met with a great deal of disdain, not only as an outsider, but as an outsider who had once before been through, trying to clean up another murky internal affairs issue (perhaps the story of the missing 1977 episode), and as he constructs his team of detectives and delves into the murders, he begins again to stumble across the hidden crimes of the police department.
Since these films were made as a series, aired on British television perhaps a bit more like a mini-series rather than three individual films, it’s hard to know how entirely to deal with these individual pieces of the puzzle. Perhaps, to try to see them a bit more uniquely, one might even try to watch them out of order rather than in order. Or maybe it just simply should be seen as parts of a whole. The directors of the three films are all different, though not different enough to stand out dramatically, attached as they are to a coherent vision of the story through a single adaptation and not necessarily directors of significantly unique “styles”.
Again, as in Red Riding: 1974, the film is solid, well-acted, intriguing, and compelling, but not massively so. The build-up upon the prior story does seem to add to the whole, but isn’t yet complete enough. It still feels sort of “television quality” or, to be fair, perhaps “telly quality” as the English do tend to make far more solid television movies than one would see in America outside of cable.
Catching them as I have on On Demand, which is my experiment of the year, films that are “Same Day as in Theaters”, I am trying to decide how I feel about it. With this series not actually playing locally outside of a short-run film festival, my guilt about watching on television versus going to the theater is not so apt. However, I’ve been having trouble getting the third act to play, so that may be the final decision-maker for what I think, both about these films and about On Demand.