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Non-Review Review: The Red Riding Trilogy

The Red Riding trilogy is a triumph of British television drama, and proof that the British channels are capable of producing home-grown drama that is of the highest possible quality. Demonstrating that HBO doesn’t hold complete dominion over quality drama, the Red Riding films were of enough quality to earn a limited theatrical release in the United States. I know that a high profile and commercial success isn’t a universal guarantee of quality, but it is certainly worth noting when discussing these three films exploring crime and corruption in the three “Riding” administrative zones. (For the record, the three zones are “North”, “East” and “West.” There is no “South”, which feels appropriate given the themes of the trilogy.)

Mingling fact and fiction into a head noir-ish cocktail, Red Riding is highly recommended for those who like bleak and sophisticated drama.

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Non-Review Review: Red Riding – The Year of Our Lord 1983

To the North, where we do what we want!

– Bill Molloy

It must be very tough to round off a trilogy of films, but Red Riding seems to possess more than its fair share of challenges. On top of the expansive cast and somewhat convoluted plot, this trilogy of adaptations for Channel 4 actually omits an entire story from the source material. David Peace wrote Red Riding as a four-book series, and yet there was only enough in the budget for a three-film adaptation. On top of that, the inevitable realities of pragmatic adaptation means that various characters have to be omitted and reworked and reconfigured so that the series of films makes sense on its own terms.

Red Riding: 1983 isn’t quite a flawless resolution to the trilogy, but it does enough things with enough skill that feels satisfying. A few contrivances feel a little awkward or cheesy, and some of the plot points feel a little too obvious and easy, but the cast and the characters are strong enough to carry this ambitious series past the finish line.

Good Jobson…

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Non-Review Review: Red Riding – The Year of Our Lord 1980

Talk to someone else!

There is no one else, they’re all %$#!ing dead!

– BJ and Hunter

Red Riding: 1980 isn’t quite as strong as its direct predecessor. In fact, it’s probably the weakest of the films in the trilogy. There are quite a few reasons for this, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth watching. For all its flaws as part of a continuing narrative, Red Riding: 1980 is still a fascinating tale of police corruption, and arguably the movie of the trilogy that works best as a standalone feature. Or, at least, better than it does as one connected narrative. Red Riding: 1974 depends on Red Riding: 1983 for an ending, and Red Riding: 1983 depends on Red Riding: 1974 for a beginning. Red Riding: 1980 sits in the middle, and serves as something of an example of the type of endemic corruption that has taken root in this version of Yorkshire.

Hunter on the prowl…

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Non-Review Review: Red Riding – The Year of Our Lord 1974

This is the North. We do what we want.

– Craven explains how things work to Eddie

Red Riding is certainly an ambitious effort. David Peace wrote four books exploring violence and corruption in Yorkshire, centring around the morbid history of brutality in the North. Occupying a strange ethereal realm between fact and fiction, sometimes those crimes are fictionalised, but sometimes real murders and murderers intersect. The child murders of this first instalment, Red Riding: 1974, evoke the infamous Moors murders in Manchester during the sixties, while the arrest of an innocent party calls to mind the case of Stefan Kiszko. Adapting the series of four books into a trilogy of films, Red Ridingmakes for a fascinating – if gloomy – exploration of the darker pages in the region’s cultural history.

He’s gone far (Gar)field…

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Non-Review Review: Tangled

Disney’s 50th animated feature film is something of a return to traditional values. Despite the surrounding discussion about whether this would be Disney’s last “princess” fairytale film or whether boys would respond to the story of Rapunzel, the movie is assuredly old school in its style. Although the way that it has been handled by the studio betrays a stunning insecurity about it, it’s self-assured a good old fashioned fairytale at heart. Though it moves away from hand-drawn animation to computer-generated imagery (though it’s reportedly heavily influenced by the old-school approach to animation), it couldn’t be more of a traditional Disney film if it tried. After so many attempts to update, subvert, revise, deconstruct or play with that classic formula, sometimes it’s nice to be served a traditional film, straight-up.

Go on, let your hair down!

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Non-Review Review: Edward Scissorhands

Perhaps no film better exemplifies the key themes of Tim Burton as well as Edward Scissorhands. It recalls the broad strokes of the Frankenstein story – in particular the iconic Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie from the thirties – telling the story a hideous scientific experiment which seeks acceptance in the outside world (and is turned upon by the villagers after a tragic misunderstanding). While Frankenstein’s monster responded with anger and murderous rage, Edward seems unable to full fathom what is occurring. The movie offered the first collaboration between Burton and Depp, a delightful pairing which we’d see on the big screen many times in the years that followed – there’s a reason the two have continued to work together for so long: they just work really well together.

Blades of glory...

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