August 21, 2013

Blu-ray Essentials: The Red Riding Trilogy (2009)

Red Riding is a UK mini-series which is made up of 3 film-length episodes, each helmed by different directors, with varied run times

In the Year of Our Lord (1974) 1 hour, 42 min., shot on 16mm film with an AR of 16x9
In the Year of Our Lord (1980) 1 hour, 33 min., shot on 35mm film with an AR of 2:35:1
In the Year of Our Lord (1983) 1 hour, 45 min., shot on a Red One digital camera.

So what we basically have here is a 5-hour long story that unfolds over the course of nine years, and involves killers, pedo's and corrupt Cops destroying a multitude of lives, all while painting a rather bleak picture of Northern England...

Alright. We're in.

We're going to keep this as detail-free as possible, so as to avoid spoilers.

A "Riding" is a jurisdiction/electoral district in a commonwealth. Red Riding is set in Yorkshire, England, which boasts North, West, and East ridings, and apparently has a metaphorical Red riding as well. I'm assuming this last riding is "Red" because of blood and murder and such.

1974- When a young girl goes missing, Yorkshire Post cub reporter Eddie Dunford (Spiderman) is determined to get to the truth behind the disappearance. He eventually learns of more missing girls, and when one shows up dead at a construction site run by local magnate John Dawson (Eddark Stark from Game of Thrones), he begins to suspect foul play! He also bangs the chick from Downton Abbey, and the grieving mother of one of the missing girls. As his investigation into the disappearances/murders gets deeper and deeper, he's beaten up by the Cops and goes completely off the fucking rails. Shit does not end well.

He fancies a pint with his evil glares.
1980- The Yorkshire Ripper is still at large, and with his current tally of 13 victims, he's making the Coppers look like fools. Called in to help investigate, AC Paddy Considine comes to believe that the Ripper's hooker-victims and the murders of the young girls are unrelated, which makes most of his peers hate him. He begins to receive threatening phone calls in the wee hours of the morning, and tries to bang his partner. As his investigation into the murders gets deeper and deeper, he realizes that being a Copper in the North sucks. Shit does not end well.

"Wot Mate? I'll hook you right in the gabber, I swear on me mum!"
1983- Another young girl has gone missing in the West riding of Yorkshire, and DS Jobson (The Governor from The Walking Dead) is on the case. He's a bit of a shady dick, but he's all we 'ave, 'innit he? Meanwhile, a portly, half-assed Solicitor named Piggot (King Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones) is hired to represent a possibly-framed man, and he starts investigating shit like a bloodhound. Soon, everyone is investigating shit, and as their inquiries get deeper and deeper, they all realize that Northern England is a shady, creepy-ass place to live. Or visit.

Shit ends kinda well.

He's probably innocent.
It's hard to compare Red Riding to another TV show or movie, but in the interest of giving the uninitiated an idea about what to expect here, I'd say it's reminiscent of Zodiac with a twist of something like Ripper Street. Maybe. It's a dark, bleak, story of a serial killer and the men who are determined to bring him to justice. Most of the Cops are crooked in this one, which adds a layer of political corruption to the proceedings. It's almost like it's an anti-Cop mini-series.

Once you've seen all three parts, and the story comes full circle, it's pretty epic. When you finally know everything and really think about what these murdered kids went through, it's downright chilling. It's effective and engrossing, and was a much-welcomed surprise for us.

Aside from its strong plot and realistic setting, there's also a wealth of acting talent on display in this series. Red Riding is filled with faces that are familiar to audiences world-wide:

Don't dismiss Andrew Garfield as merely the guy who plays Spiderman, because dude can act. He shines in this.
I don't know how Paddy Consadine isn't a bigger star. He's got crazy presence.
Peter Mullan is one of the most intense actors on the planet. He's also criminally underrated.
King Robert Baratheon! Mark Addy is a great actor with a range far beyond his popular GOT character.
It's nice to see David Morrissey get some international love from his role on The Walking Dead. He's been a fave of ours for years.
Robert Sheehan is one hell of an actor. Loved him in Love/Hate.
Sean Bean; the best actor who dies in 90% of whatever he stars in. He's world class in our book.
Though Red Riding is presented to us in three parts -1974, 1980, and 1983- the book series that it's based off of is a quintet, and there's a chapter of the story set in 1977 that was not a part of this mini-series. Now, I've not read the books, so I'm not sure if the material from In the Year of Our Lord (1977) was worked into the other three parts, or just skipped altogether, but dammit I would have gladly sat through a 90+ minute episode based on 1977.

There's a rumor out there that Colombia Pictures bought the right to turn the Red Riding books/movies into a feature film... and I'm here to say that there is absolutely no need for that to happen at all. The Red Riding Trilogy is more fine the way it is, and I can't imagine any remake, especially if it's just one feature-length film, doing the existing story any Justice whatsoever.

Why does every foreign property of worth have to be remade for American audiences anyway? I know that by and large, the American audience can't stand having to read subtitles, which I think is pretty sad. This is a British production, in which they speak English, so what's the problem with just distributing it to American audiences, and letting us enjoy it in all its splendor, instead of remaking it?

There should be a 20-year rule for remakes. Period.

This one really isn't about the gore, although there is plenty of violence and some murders to be had here. And torture. And dead bodies of children with swan wings sewn into their backs. It really is filled will all sorts of disturbing things.

The Krays are still alive?!?
Aside from some naked nudie-mag pictures, most of the sexuality here is implied. Mostly, it's just Spiderman's naked ass that ends up on display.

"Never did one good thing did I?"
"This is the North. We do what we want."
"They’ve got sunshine down South and a warm summer breeze. We should just go there right now and never come back."

They do what they want in the North, and you'd better shut the hell up about it. Also, British TV fare is filled with some superb acting talent.

Look out! That swan is coming right for you!
Red Riding is one of the best TV mini-series that we've ever seen. It's totally engaging and absorbing, it's filled with great actors who all turn in solid performances, and it's disturbing as hell. It's not a perfect series, but for us it was a perfect experience that we'll be happy to revisit on a regular basis. 

The Blu-ray version is available on Amazon right now for $11.79, which is an insanely good price for a great piece of entertainment. Click the poster up above and order yourself one right now, you'll be glad you did.


Red Riding definitely delivered some 70's hotness for our viewing pleasure, in the form of Rebecca Hall and Michelle Dockery.

1 comment :

  1. I really enjoyed the series and wonder why there are efforts to squeeze it into a feature film, too. Even if they include the missing book, it won't be able to rattle your soul as deep as the series was able to, I'm afraid. But we are talking about Americans who are blindly believing that every single film material which has been successful MUST be honored by a remake. Sometimes some gifted directors are able to create a miracle and the remake is worth watching but in most the cases a remake was not needed. Sad but true.