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March 10, 2010
Movie Review: Red Riding 1974
Posted by Turk182 in Movie Reviews

Buoyed by very strong performances and a deliberate, grim style, the first installment in the acclaimed Red Riding Trilogy, Red Riding 1974 sets the tone for the movies to come and makes clear that these are not sunny days for the faint of heart. These are gloomy times; films not merely about the seedy underbelly of society but the fact that the seedy underbelly keeps things moving. They have been compared to Zodiac but they are more realistically grim than David Fincher’s masterpiece. The film can be a bit too self-serious at times, director Julian Jarrold (Brideshead Revisited) would have been wise to focus on the procedural a bit more than the lead's dream sequences or moments of reflection, and the film's television roots show on a production level, but Red Riding 1974 is a well-made, expertly performed mystery with the added bonus that there are two more films to watch when this one's over.

The Red Riding films are based on four books by David Peace known as the "Red Riding Quartet." Each film details a series of murders set against a backdrop of increasing political and official corruption. The three films – Red Riding 1974, Red Riding 1980, and Red Riding 1983 – aired on Channel 4 in March of 2009 and are now being released theatrically (playing at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago starting Friday, March 12, 2010 and at the Detroit Film Theatre beginning Friday, March 19, 2010).

The theatrical trailer for Red Riding 1974.

Red Riding 1974 stars Andrew Garfield as Eddie Dunford, a young journalist who gets caught up in the mystery of missing (and often found dead) little girls in his job at the Yorkshire Post. At first, the latest girl is just missing but soon she’s found raped, murdered, and with swan wings sewn on her back. His investigation leads him into the reach of John Dawson (Sean Bean), a developer often displacing poor people in his effort to build new property, and the depressed mother of one of the girls (Rebecca Hall). When one of Dunford's friends (Anthony Flanagan) ends up dead, Eddie's investigation gets even more intense as he realizes he's getting closer to something truly dark. The great Eddie Marsan and David Morrissey co-star in the film directed by Julian Jarrold. Each installment in the trilogy features a different director and mostly different cast with a few recurring characters.

My personal critical jury is still out on Garfield. He made a splash as one of the few new faces in Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs but he still comes across a bit shallow to this viewer. There's not quite the emotional depth in his performance that would have truly made Red Riding 1974 a more effecting film. Luckily, the slight absence of character in the center of the piece is more than balanced out by the supporting performances, including a spectacular one from Hall, who is quite convincing as a mother damaged in a way most people could never possibly understand. Bean, Marsan, and Morrissey help populate an ensemble that truly works.

The theatrial trailer for the Red Riding Trilogy.

Some of the television production values hinder the piece a bit – lots of close ups, sparse locations, a TV-esque score – and I wonder if the trilogy won't have more power on DVD, but the A-list cast make it easier to overlook the B-list production. As for the story, Red Riding 1974 drags a bit and the final act gets a bit too melodramatic for Garfield's current skill set but there's a lot to like about Jarrold's style and the tone set by this opening chapter. It's unlikely that anyone up for a trilogy of this length in the theaters will be turned off enough by the first film not to move on to the second. Red Riding 1974 starts with an optimistic young reporter and ends with the viewer feeling anxious and even downtrodden about not only where the trilogy might go from here but the darkness of humanity it will expose.


Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)

Release Date: March 12th, 2010 (in Chicago; the film is already playing in New York and LA and expanding around the country over the next few weeks)
Rating: NR

Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey, John Henshaw, Anthon Flanagan, Rebecca Hall, Sean Bean, and Eddie Marsan
Director: Julian Jarrold
Writer: Tony Grisoni


Check out the Red Riding 1980 review here!
Check out the Red Riding 1983 review here!

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Posted by Turk182 in Movie Reviews - March 10, 2010 at 1:03 PM
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