Friday, April 2, 2010
Red Riding: 1974
In 2009 BBC’s Channel 4 decided to try a filmmaking experiment by having three different filmmakers adapt three novels from the Red Riding Trilogy to the screen in the same year and release them a week apart, like old Hollywood serials. Each of the movies focuses on a year of particular import to the true story of the Yorkshire Ripper case.
A big part of the scandal surrounding the Yorkshire Ripper case was the revelation of the corruption and incompetence of the Yorkshire police. The people of England became outraged at the nastiness of the cops in Northern England. Think LAPD and both the OJ Simpson and Rodney King cases.
1974 is a bit of a primer. They don’t really talk much about the Ripper, but instead set the stage for the films to follow by profiling a specific storyline from the period that serves to show the law enforcement realities of that time and place. In other words, it’s backstory.
The story is that of Eddie Dunford, a young reporter who is assigned to a story in Yorkshire. He’s aggressive, naive and seems to have more curiosity than sense. He’s sent to simply report on a missing girl, but he begins to find broader, juicier stories about local corruption and possible complicity with these crimes. In the end, he doesn’t get much story, but gets tons of brutal interaction with local power figures and law enforcement. The cops seem to all be on the payroll of prominent Yorkshire businessmen and act more like mafia thugs than officers. There is a moment where he’s about to be tossed out the back of a moving police van and the cop pauses, points and says, “you see that? That is the south and we’re heading north.” What the cop, of course, was really saying was, we run things up here and we run things how the hell we want, so stay the hell out. All of this has little to do with the Ripper case factually, but profiling this true story paints a picture of the setting for the investigation and subsequent trial in the case and shows how and why things went as poorly as they did.
I plan on seeing all three as they are now being released in US theaters one week apart as well. This installment was well acted, well written and well shot. Outside of some unnecessary romance and sex, all of it felt just right and the director of this one of the three did a fine job of setting up the two to follow. If you don’t live in a major city, you may have to seek it out on DVD, but I encourage you to do so. It’s dark, it’s gritty, but it’s damn good.