Red Riding Trilogy (2009)
This is less a review and more an analysis of how we can be a victim to our own processes when consuming media. How do you watch a movie versus longer form entertainment?
But first off, The Red Riding Trilogy are separate, but linked movies taking place in three different years: 1974, 1980, and 1983. Watch them in that order. Each movie concerns a different crime consuming a corrupt English police department. In 1974, three young girls have gone missing. In 1980, there’s a serial killer targeting young women. And in 1983, another young girl disappears echoing the 1974 case.
The real heart of the films aren’t the crimes, but the Yorkshire police and how corruption corrodes and destroys both cases and lives. The specific plot of the first two movies are almost identical, but with some different players. An eager outsider, good, but with a weakness slowly discovers the police department’s corruption, tries to fight but meets a dark end and some one is scapegoated. (And I’ll admit, I didn’t expect the first film to go so dark, but was less surprised the second time around.) The third film, 1983, has many elements of the first two films, but also works to wrap up the many mysteries.
If you’re a fan of the crime drama, fight the system movies, and a grim realism, you should like the movies. They’re not Law and Order procedurals or have the gee-whiz cleverness of a CSI. It’s more like The Wire where systems are king and the rest of the individuals scrabble around for an attempt at dignity or comfort from their own misdeeds.
So here’s where my own compartmentalization in watching the movies came back to bite me. Often, when watching a genre picture, it’s real easy to hang a stereotype onto the different actors. There’s the incompetent henchman, there’s the long suffering wife, there’s the arrogant official, there’s the wide eyed crusader and so on. Lot’s of movies even cast the same types of actors for these kinds of supporting roles. It’s also easier to do when watching a foreign film because there’s fewer recognizable faces. Sean Bean was the only actor I recognized and he was playing a high-profile character, the out-sized businessman who owns the whole town. Admit it, when you watch a movie with an actor whose name you know, you’ll mentally call their character by the actor’s name the whole movie. Adding to the confusion and reinforcing my reliance on types instead of learning their names was the actor’s thick rural English accents that made following the movie part of the ongoing mystery.
All of this lazy movie watching worked fine for the first movie and I was caught up in the plot throughout. Highly enjoyable.
The problem came in the second film when many of the more background characters of the first film were promoted in the police department and into lead roles. By the middle of the second film, the plot became secondary to my figuring out each of the character’s personal relationships to each other. Also, what exactly did they do in the first film and who was involved in what. I was still behind watching the third film even though it was a little more forgiving supplying many flash backs. And by the end, the various character’s resolutions were pretty clear, even if I couldn’t remember if the second lead was even in the other movies.
This is a fault of mine as I was in movie watching mode which often deals with broad strokes and plot and not in TV series or mini-series mode which more often deals with characters and their relationships.
I’d never watch Rubicon like I watched these movies, I tend to pay more attention to TV.
That’s kind of weird, given how much movies claim we should pay more attention as viewers to them and we’re just supposed to watch TV as back ground noise.
The tables have turned. The tables have turned.
(Just tonight I learned that The Red Riding Trilogy aired as a mini-series on BBCTV, maybe I would’ve paid more attention if I knew that.)
One pet peeve, gritty urban dramas, how come in every movie that has an establishing tracking shot of a new desolated, poverty-ridden urban wasteland must we always include a bunch of little urchins pounding away at a burnt-out husk of a car? We get it, the people are so poor, kids are left to their own devious shenanigans. This trilogy did this three times, once a movie. I know, themes and whatnot, but c’mon.
Oh, on the bright side, they did introduce a psychic, make us think she’d be of actual help to the police, then she turns out to be totally wrong. Sweet.
Thematically, she was the emotional sounding board for the flawed lead, as all three movies had one and that was okay.
Also, I’m peeved at my own constant use of the word ‘shenanigans.’
But what’cha gonna do?
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