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Beware the Creeper!

Iain's life as a psychotic crimefighter

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Red Riding Trilogy

Yesterday we (my partner in crime A and I) watched Channel 4's Red Riding Trilogy - a miniseries based on a quartet of novels by David Peace (1974, 1977,1980, 1983.)

The glibbest summary is that it was as if Ken Loach had adapted James Ellroy's novels and changed the setting to Yorkshire. Each part was written by Tony Grisoni and David Peace, with a different director and technical crew for each episode.

1974 - an ambitious reporter (Andrew Garfield) investigates the disappearance of a local school girl, and is delighted to find that he may have stumbled on a serial murderer (as it could be a story that makes his career.) Unfortunately, he has found something far darker, and it is this darkness which infests the next two stories. Directed by Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane and the recent adaptation of Brideshead Revisited) this episode is slow to get started and follows very familiar paths until upping the ante considerably towards the end.

1980 (Peace's novel 1977 which concerns the reporter's chief rival at the newspaper is skipped) - the Yorkshire Ripper is at large, and the detective (Paddy Considine) flown in to take over the case from the locals finds that one of the killings is not the work of the Ripper, but is instead tied to the events shown in 1974. Directed by James Marsh (Man On Wire) this is by far the best episode - gripping from start to finish.

1983 - another school girl goes missing and a detective from the original case (David Morrissey) discovers a conscience. A slobby lawyer (Mark Addy) opens an appeal for the man initially charged with the disappearances (and clearly framed) only to discover that his own connections with the case run deeper then he knows. Directed by Anand Tucker (Girl With A Pearl Earring) this fills in a lot of the blanks in the previous episodes but has an unsatisfactory conclusion that reaches for a very misplaced kind of visual poetry, as if to distract from the preceding grimness.

The rest of the cast include Warren Clarke (from Dalzeil and Pascoe - playing a very different kind of police officer), Sean Bean, Jim Carter and a host of other familiar faces from British television.

The Red Riding trilogy is based on fact, especially reports on the extensive corruption of the West Yorkshire Police in the 70s to 80s. It is incredibly grim and nihilistic and a far cry from the usual avuncular British crime dramas (Dalzeil and Pascoe fans should avoid this like the plague - they never be able to look at Dalziel in the same light again.)

If the other two parts were as solid as 1980 and the sometimes confusing flashback structure (for example, the early part of 1983 is mostly flashbacks to 1974) was clearer I'd have no hesitation in recommending it. As it is, it's still fairly gripping if overly convoluted and will hopefully show up on the ABC or SBS at some point.