Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Red Riding: 1983

If the thoroughly corrupt Yorkshire police have one virtue it is their lack of pretense. As Anand Tucker’s concluding Red Riding: 1983 opens, DCS Bill Molloy offers a toast that pretty much says it all: “To the North, where we do what we want.” Indeed, corruption appears so pervasive throughout the Yorkshire depicted in the Red Riding film trilogy, only outsiders have been willing to challenge it. Such initially seems to be the case again in Tucker’s 1983 (trailer here), which opens tomorrow as part of IFC’s special Red Riding Roadshow presentation.

As a solicitor, John Piggott does not inspire confidence, looking more King of Queens than Perry Mason. However, since his mother’s death brought him back to Yorkshire, he may well be the only uncompromised legal counsel in the region. Reluctantly, he accepts an appeal that will open many old wounds.

While Piggott serves as the unlikely hero of 1983, DCS Maurice Jobson emerges as the protagonist of the entire Red Riding cycle. Though only a supporting player in the first two films, his character has been a party to some terrible deeds. Though he rebuffs Piggott’s initial inquiries, Jobson’s gnawing conscience puts him increasingly at odds with the rest of the force.

In a pronounced departure from Marsh’s 1980, Anand’s style at time borders on the operatic, yet it often suits the film’s theme of redemption—real redemption, not the cheap Hollywood variety. Indeed, 1983 has moments that are quite arresting, though there are also stylistic excesses, including the addition of some pretentious interior monologue voice-overs. The revelation of one particular villain also is such a movie cliché it will hardly come as any surprise to viewers.

Still, 1983 is a very strong film distinguished by two quite intense performances from Mark Addy and David Morrissey as Piggot and Jobson, respectively. Addy makes quite a sympathetic protagonist, but maintains credibility as an educated solicitor rather than coming across as a sitcom loser, regardless of the unprepossessing figure he cuts. In the critical role of the film cycle, Morrissey deftly projects Jobson’s inner turmoil, convincingly setting the stage for Red Riding’s big emotional payoff.

Red Riding might not do much to promote Yorkshire tourism, but it is well worth the nearly five hour cinematic trip. Though a very good film, viewers who have not seen the prior two films should be cautioned they may not fully appreciate the significance of many scenes in 1983. Regardless, it is a well made, finely acted conclusion to a notably ambitious film cycle. The Red Riding Roadshow opens this Friday (2/5) in New York at the IFC Center, for one week only. Individual Red Riding screenings will commence the week following.