Red Riding 1980 Review: Grim up north?! It’s bleeding brutal

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews


redriding1980RED RIDING: 1980, Channel 4, Thursday 12th March 2009, 9.00pm Alert me

March is an epic month for David Pearce, with adaptations of his novels seeking sway on both TV (Red Riding) and in the cinema (The Damned United). His multi-layered storytelling technique includes the kind of twists that even the most sunshine-starved, couch-cemented TV addict would fail to see coming. Paddy Considine’s seal of approval is a valuable asset to the production, although I have to admit, he looks naked without his moustache.

The second in the Channel 4 trilogy is set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper investigation. After five years and countless errors, the murder of Laura Baines brings the body count up to thirteen and Peter Hunter (Considine) is called in to provide a “fresh perspective?, determine why the killer is still at large and whether the West Yorkshire constabulary “had him and let him go? after the Wearside Tapes.

As Hunter’s “super squad? strip the case back to first principles, they note an anomaly in the form of Clare Strachan: a murdered former prostitute who had a compromising relationship with D.I. Eric Hall and displayed injuries inconsistent with the Ripper’s style. As with most tales of institutional corruption, there is the obvious below-the-belt banter from the faltering cops panick-stricken at the thought of being caught out – an interesting Hot Fuzz role-reversal for Considine.

Shovels of praise should be heaped upon Sean Harris, who plays the viciously vindictive and gaunt Bob Craven. In the obligatory scary-men’s-toilet scene, Hunter and Craven have the mother of all standoff’s– it’s easy to see why roles as murderers and psychopaths feature heavily on the actor’s CV.

Directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire), 1980 has taken an unfaltering commitment to capturing the essence of historical accuracy. The film stock even has the greyish-green tinge that characterises photography in the seventies and eighties. Marsh’s style shows a fixation on unique angles and the importance of augmented motifs.

From rain drops to blood spatter, through wind, smog and smoke, Marsh is the master of pathetic fallacy – emphasising the depressing, murky nature of the case and the turbulent lives of all involved. Jarring screeches and echoing sound patterns pepper and punctuate the action like a smattering of bullet wounds as the action builds to a deafening crescendo.

I’ve been looking for a cop-action writer to rival Don Winslow, and in David Pearce,  I think we may have found our man.

Sally McIlhone

While you’re here, make sure to check out our review of the first part in the trilogy. What do you think? Was 1980 a Godfather II or Speed II: Cruise Control of sequels?