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Precariously ambitious in its scope, the "Red Riding Trilogy" consists of three interconnected films — directed by three different directors—- about a series of child abductions in Northern England over a nine-year period.
The trio of films is based on David Peace's crime saga, loosely based on the true-life case of the Yorkshire Ripper (Peter Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering 13 women between 1975 and 1980).
Director Julian Harold draws the long straw with "Red Riding 1974" in which a young hotshot Yorkshire newspaper reporter named Eddie Dunford (well played by Andrew Garfield) sees a pattern in the disappearances of children in the area.
A web of deception connects local business maverick John Dawson (Sean Bean) with the Yorkshire police department, who have no patience for Eddie's sixth sense about the murder of a young girl.
"Red Riding 1980" (directed by James Marsh) shifts narrative gears considerably to focus on a full-scale investigation into the Yorkshire Police Department's mishandling of the ongoing case. Paddy Considine gives his strongest performance to date as lead investigator Peter Hunter, whose personal life implodes under the corruption that he valiantly attempts to expose.
Sadly, the triad ends with a whimper rather than the iconic bang promised by the gut-wrenching climax of the first film. Arnand Tucker ("Leap Year") draws the short straw with "Red Riding 1983," a comparatively sloppy final chapter that tries too hard to put a bright bow on a determinedly downbeat story.
A surprise protagonist, a surprise victim, and a surprisingly miscalculated narrative arc add up to a closing film that all but ruins the lasting effect of the previous two installments.
If I had it to do over again, I'd see only the first two films and call it a day.
One thing's for sure. You'll never want to go to Yorkshire after seeing this respectable but flawed experiment in true crime endurance test.
(IFC FIlms) Not Rated. 305 mins.