Red Riding: 1983

(2009) dir. Anand Tucker
viewed: 02/16/10

The final part of the Red Riding Trilogy, Red Riding: 1983 wraps up the narratives of Red Riding: 1974 (2009) and Red Riding: 1980 (2009), though with much more focus on 1974 than the other.  As with the other films, this one is adapted from the final book of David Peace’s series about North Yorkshire crime and corruption in this period of 9 years and adapted by writer Tony Grisoni.  And this film is directed by yet another director, Anand Tucker, who has perhaps the least impressive resume of the three directors and gets stuck with the most convoluted of the three scripts to direct.

Now that I have seen all three films, which were made originally for England’s Channel 4, but are being released theatrically (and on cable’s On Demand) in the States, I can say that the whole is more and better than the sum of the parts.  The parts, the three films, on their own are decent, maybe a tad above what one typically considers “made of TV” movies, though as I noted, “made for TV” movies in Britain tend to be better than ones in America, with the potential exception of some now produced for cable.

Red Riding: 1983 has the misfortune of having to resolve all the narrative tropes of the series and therefore finds itself almost half of the time in flashback mode, using some clips from the prior films, but also just “explaining” the story.  There is a mystery here.  The child murders of 1974 are brought back to life when a new child disappears.  And a dissipated barrister and one of the bad cops who develops a conscience help to oust the black heart of the corruption and seek redemption.

The period is interestingly photographed.  England’s countryside is beautiful, the moors and the hills, but the poverty of the housing districts, all of England under heavy black clouds, is hung under a depression.  Perhaps with some more context for the larger political and social landscape outside of the North would have added to this historical vision.  But the story is all about the North, how in the North the motto is “This is the North, we do what we like.”  And all the top police, businessmen, and even the priests are all part of a murderous mafia whose deepest, darkest evil is a child molestation and pornography ring.

Frankly, it’s hard to fathom that so many people who were in the police would be able to stomach the knowledge that a child murderer, child rapists, child abductors and exploiters were at work.  Of all the crimes that collusion would be brought together upon, the idea that that many prominent figures could participate or willingly allow such a thing to happen is just hard to believe because it is so morally reprehensible, that someone within this circle would have to have balked and fought against it.

For Red Riding: 1983, the whole thing has to be revealed, and I actually found it a bit confusing in its revelations at times, so it’s not handled as well as it could be.  The whole of the series is better when the finale is there because the story is more complete, so I would say that these films on their own are not the way to go.  It’s a series that should be seen that way.  However, though the series is more than the sum of the parts, it’s still not fantastic.  It’s got some interesting things going on in it, some good actors and good performances, and it intrigues.  But on the whole, … eh.

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