Foreign & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video ">

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Rotten Tomatoes
Showtimes & Tickets
Enter Zip Code:

Andrew Garfield in RED RIDING: 1974 (Photo: IFC Films)

Produced by Andrew Eaton, Anita Overland & Wendy Brazington
Written by Tony Grisoni, based on the novels by David Peace
Released by IFC Films  

Directed by
Julian Jarrold
UK. 105 min. Not Rated
Sean Bean, Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey, Cathryn Bradshaw, Warren Clarke, Shaun Dooley, Anthony Flanagan, Rebecca Hall, Sean Harris, John Henshaw, Gerard Kearns, Eddie Marsan, Daniel Mays, Tony Mooney, Peter Mullan, Steven Robertson, Robert Sheehan, Gerard Kearns & Mary Jo Randle

Directed by
James Marsh
UK. 96 min. Not Rated  
Paddy Considine, David Morrissey, Maxine Peake, Jim Carter, Warren Clarke, Shaun Dooley, Julia Ford, Andrew Garfield, Sean Harris, Eddie Marsan, Joseph Mawle,Tony Mooney, Peter Mullan, Robert Sheehan, Tony Pitts & Lesley Sharp

Directed by
Anand Tucker
UK. 104 min. Not Rated
Mark Addy, David Morrissey, Sean Bean, Jim Carter, Warren Clarke, Shaun Dooley, Andrew Garfield, Sean Harris, John Henshaw, Gerard Kearns, Daniel Mays, Tony Mooney, Peter Mullan, Tony Pitts, Steven Robertson, Robert Sheehan, Gerard Kearns, Saskia Reeves

The Red Riding Trilogy is a feast for fans of gritty British mysteries. Through three linked, profanity- and violence-filled films, a gallery of vivid characters sinks deeper into a quicksand of guilt and brutality across a dark decade of killers and corruption. The trilogy crosses bloody good crime movies with socially conscious police procedurals because here the cops are the gangsters.

While the real Yorkshire Ripper and child abduction serial murders in the north of England have fed other fiction and documentaries, David Pease’s quartet of novels is a tour de force of first person perspectives from almost every damaged character over a decade of brutal crimes and worse cover-ups. (Amid many, almost impenetrable Britishisms, a “riding” is like a county.) The bravura of a toast to “This is the North, where we do what we want” proves true, dragging everyone, even the most sympathetic, down into a choking cesspool.

Like a repertory company, the large ensemble of talented character actors appear and reappear throughout, sometimes in flashbacks, with primary roles in one and secondary roles in others. The emotional wallop of using a crime story to examine the human collateral damage during the Thatcher years resonates like David Simon’s institutional attacks in The Wire, crossed with the brazen police violence of Shawn Ryan’s The Shield. The trilogy was first broadcast in the U.K. as a TV mini-series, and is being shown in theaters in the States in “road show” marathon screenings.

1974 is by far the best, and it will so grip your guts that you’ll want to watch the rest of the series, not just for story line resolutions but out of a sense of outrage and morbid curiosity to find out if the (fairly) good guys can ever be revenged. Andrew Garfield fulfills the promise of his performance in Boy A, playing ambitious cub crime reporter Eddie Dunford, who gets in over his head in every possible way, including his involvement with a sourcethe abused, bereft mother Paula Garland (Rebecca Hall, transformed downscale from Vicky Cristina Barcelona). His anguish haunts every moment of the trilogy.

Sean Bean has been playing creepy Hollywood villains for awhile now, but his real-estate tycoon John Dawson is as charismatic as he is repellant, and not just for his obsession with beautiful swans. Warren Clarke (as “Badger Bill”) and David Morrissey (as “The Owl”) have played stolid bureaucrats before, so it’s that much more fascinating to watch them gradually fray under the pressure of the mounting death toll and conspiracies. Peter Mullan and Eddie Marsan only need to be on screen briefly to make their over-confident reverend and reporter, respectively, add to our uneasiness. Director Julian Jarrold started out with ground-breaking TV cop shows like Cracker before switching to flirtatious costume dramas like Becoming Jane, and he makes the most of the very dark cinematography of Rob Hardy (also of Boy A).

1980 is the weakest, depicting the most straightforward war on crime as directed by James Marsh, showing little of his flair from Man on Wire. With the inevitable pruning and telescoping from cutting the quartet of linguistically acrobatic novels down to a trilogy (the missing fourth covers an anguished 1977 inside the heads of coppers drowning in the dirt), some of the clues begin to seem too obvious to be rediscovered by Paddy Considine’s seemingly squeaky clean investigator Peter Hunter. But how the buttoned-down outsider is turned inside out keeps the audience hooked, if stunned, as the clues escape solution.

The 1983 conclusion, directed by Anand Tucker, revisits the gruesome murders of part one through a reluctant anti-hero. The beaten down audience is revived by this new character, the chubby, ineffectual lawyer John Piggott (Mark Addy, one of the woebegone crew in The Full Monty). There are stomach-turning twists as Piggott fights a miscarriage of justice. Because of his family ties, he struggles against the past, as well as the powers that be. Don’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up neatly in the north of England. No vampires or demons, just the ever human banality of evil. Nora Lee Mandel
February 5, 2010



Archive of Previous Reviews

Contact us