(director: Julian Jarrold; screenwriters: Tony Grisoni/based on the novel by David Peace; cinematographer: Rob Hardy; editor: Andrew Hulme; music: Adrian Johnston; cast: Sean Bean (John Dawson), Warren Clarke (Bill Molloy), Andrew Garfield (Eddie Dunford), David Morrissey (Maurice Jobson), Peter Mullan (Martin Laws), Robert Sheehan (B J), Sean Harris (Bob Craven), Tony Mooney (Tommy Douglas), Rebecca Hall (Paula Garland); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Andrew Eaton/Anita Overland/Wendy Brazington;IFC Films; 2009-UK)

It envisions Yorkshire as a bleak and ugly place, where violence is just as commonplace as Yorkshire pudding.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Julian Jarrold (“Becoming Jane”/”Kinky Boots”/”Brideshead Revisited“) slickly helms this crime drama inspired by a true crime story of a serial killer in Yorkshire and a rookie journalist trying to solve the case when he finds the police uncaring and corrupt. It was shot in Super 16 millimeter, giving it a gritty look. This is the first-part of the trilogy (with three different directors, that’s named after the years in which the murders take place—1974, 1980, and 1983). It was seen first in England on Channel 4 as a five-hour mini-series (seen by me in the States on the Sundance Channel), that’s an adaptation of Yorkshire-born writer David Pearce’s acclaimed four novels. The trilogy was handsomely adapted by Tony Grisoni. It envisions Yorkshire as a bleak and ugly place, where violence is just as commonplace as Yorkshire pudding. It often repeats the film’s mantra of “This is the north, where we do what we want.”

Twenty-something Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) moves from his home in the South to the industrial cities of Yorkshire and is hired by the Yorkshire Post as a crime reporter. While covering the vicious murder/torture/rape of 10-year-old Clare Kemplay, whose mutilated body is found at a building site, the reporter immediately smells something is rotten in Yorkshire. He’s particularly disturbed that there’s no connection made with this murder and two other similar murders of children committed in Yorkshire a few years apart in the recent past, that the corrupt and perverse local building developer John Dawson (Sean Bean) has the police and local politicians bought off, and that the heavy-handed police, supported by his own newspaper, railroaded an innocent retarded man for the crime and close the case with a conviction.

The pic could have used subtitles for its American audience, as the Yorkshire accents are laid on thick. But its major fault is that the storytelling, filled with intricate details, is jarred and never that clear. If you’re not familiar with the area or the tabloid story, the film does not make it easy for one to follow the grizzly events. Though I didn’t find it a pleasant watch or particularly entertaining, I could appreciate its uncompromising attitude toward corruption, its overall fine acting from the ensemble cast and that it was told in a hard-edged cynical way exposing in a muckraking way how the area’s leading institutions were as repellent as most of the seedy characters presented.

It should be noted that the title was derived because Yorkshire, a county of England in the North, is divided into three sections or ridings. The locale of the crime is West Riding. Also the victim Clare was wearing a red anorak, which covers the color part of the title.

Red Riding: The Year of Our Lord 1974 Poster