Red Riding Trilogy (2009)

I returned to the Red Riding Trilogy having finally received the PAL DVD last week. Red Riding is a television adaptation of English author David Peace's Red Riding Quartet. Published between 1999 and 2002, the quartet comprises the novels Nineteen Seventy-Four (1999), Nineteen Seventy-Seven (2000), Nineteen Eighty (2001) and Nineteen Eighty-Three (2002). Only three of the books were adapted ('74, '80 and '83) for the series. So.... in a nutshell: 1974, written in 1999, was filmed in 2009 and released as the first in a trio of films based on Peace's quartet of novels. Confusing? Wait 'til you watch them.

The three films that make of the trilogy were shot by different directors and even though a number of characters span the series, the lead is different in each film. The plot is set against a backdrop of serial murders (including the real Yorkshire Ripper case) and deals with everything from police corruption, to murder, to seedy backroom deals, subterranean pedophiles, a system rigged for injustice, and reams of bureaucratic and religious misconduct. Thematically, it focuses on how systemic, ingrained corruption leads to communal rot if good men do nothing. The crimes featured in the scripts are dramatized versions of events rather than factual accounts, but you'd be hard pressed to pick out the real ones from the fictional.

There is a distinctly grimy quality to both the adaptations and the way in which these films are brought to the screen. Based solely on the northern England presented here, I completely understand Tom's decision to leave that wretched country. The Yorkshire of Red Riding makes Detroit look like sunny Madrid by comparison. What a shithole. The murderers have to be quick because most of their victims are about that far from offing themselves anyways. Yorkshire Tourism and the local Chamber of Commerce would be wise to buy up all the copies they can find of Red Riding and have them destroyed.

A couple of quick observations about the series. The story arc is well adapted and even though the individual films can stand alone, they work best as a trilogy and are obviously intended as such. Questions posed in the first film are answered in the third and so forth. Of the leads, Paddy Considine in the middle film, stands as the highlight of the series. Ever since Dead Man's Shoes, I've considered him one of the leading actors of our time, even though he doesn't seem to land as many roles as you might hope. His performance here reminded that I need to watch PU-239, a DVD released last year that I never got around to watching.

The dingy and depressing aspects of Red Riding felt a little unrelenting at times and that might put some off. The good guys are few and far between and the bad guys the deepest shade of pitch black. Evil permeates this quasi-fictional world, at times to the point of overindulgence, but I suppose the that is its point. Left to their own devices, the evil that men do can escalate until someone stands up and puts a stop to it.

Terrific, but exceedingly grim, the ambitious, compelling and slightly flawed Red Riding trilogy is definitely worth a look for those who like their crime stories bleak. And nobody does bleak quite as well as the Brits.
... and on a slightly different, but significantly more upbeat note, at least that stupid fucking picture of Drew Barrymore is finally gone.  


the coelacanth said...

woah - "depressing"? "grimy"? "bleak"? this sounds tailor made for me. and jules and his papa. thank god they don't have a PAL player... ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!

Britarded said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Britarded said...

It's not all bad,