|Created by||David Peace
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||3|
|Running time||295 min.|
|Distributor||IFC Films (US)|
|Original channel||Channel 4|
|Original run||5 March 2009 – 19 March 2009|
Red Riding (2009) is a three-part television adaptation of English author David Peace's Red Riding Quartet (1999–2002). The quartet comprises the novels Nineteen Seventy-Four (1999), Nineteen Seventy-Seven (2000), Nineteen Eighty (2001) and Nineteen Eighty-Three (2002) and the first, third, and fourth of these books became three feature-length television episodes — Red Riding 1974, Red Riding 1980, and Red Riding 1983. They aired in the UK on Channel 4 beginning on 5 March 2009 and were produced by Revolution Films. The three films were released theatrically in the US in February 2010.
Set against a backdrop of serial murders during 1974–1983, including the Yorkshire Ripper killings, the books and films follow several recurring fictional characters through a bleak and violent world of multi-layered police corruption and organized crime. Although real-life crimes are referenced, the plot is fiction rather than a documentary or factual account of events. Both the books and films mix elements of fact, fiction and conspiracy theory — a confection dubbed "Yorkshire Noir" by some critics — and are notable for a chronologically fractured narrative and for defying neat or trite endings and resolutions. (Yorkshire, Britain's largest county, is broken into three administrative areas known as the Ridings — North, East, and West. There is no “Red” Riding, except in the metaphorical sense.)
Plot summaries 
Red Riding 1974 
In 1974, Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield), a young reporter from the Yorkshire Post, tries to find information on a series of missing girls. Meanwhile, John Dawson (Sean Bean), a local businessman and developer, bribes members of the West Yorkshire Constabulary (WYC) and local councillors into letting him purchase local land and gain permission for a shopping centre he has planned. This is done by burning down a Roma camp previously existing in the area. One of the murdered girls is found on Dawson's land, having been tortured, raped, and strangled, with swan wings stitched into her back.
Young, cocky and naive, Dunford pushes his investigation into dangerous areas. After the violent, bizarre death of his friend Barry Gannon (Anthony Flanagan) — he had been warned that his life was in danger — Dunford meets an elusive male prostitute, B.J. (Robert Sheehan), who passes along incriminating materials Barry had gathered about local authority figures. Dunford becomes romantically involved with the mother of one of the missing girls, Paula Garland (Rebecca Hall). He then learns that she also has a secret sexual relationship with Dawson: she tells Dunford that she and Dawson have known each other all their lives.
Dunford ignores threats from corrupt WYC officers to keep away from Paula and Dawson's institutionalized wife. Despite being beaten twice, he continues his investigation until he is ultimately arrested after storming into a private party at Dawson's house. Paula is also abducted and murdered. The bag full of documents and photos from B.J. — evidence of police corruption — was given by Dunford to the seemingly trustworthy officer who investigated Barry's death. However, it is brought to Detective Superintendent Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey) who destroys it. After again being brutalized and tortured while in custody by the same two police officers — Tommy Douglas (Tony Mooney) and Bob Craven (Sean Harris) — Dunford is given a loaded gun and abandoned in a desolate area.
Bloody and frantic, Dunford now seeks out Dawson, and after storming his house to no avail, finds him at his establishment — the Karachi Club — and, after shooting two of his henchmen, confronts him about the murders. Dawson makes a confession to having "a private weakness", indicating that he was connected to the girls' murders. Dunford shoots him repeatedly and then flees in his car. He reverses course and deliberately drives head-on into two police cars that were pursuing him; a vision of Paula appears by his side before his death.
Red Riding 1980 
In 1980, following public outcry over the failure to catch the Yorkshire Ripper, a "squeaky clean" Manchester police detective, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine), is assigned to travel to West Yorkshire to head the WYC investigation, much to the chagrin of the former head, Bill Molloy (Warren Clarke). Hunter had previously worked on the Karachi Club massacre, a case he had to abandon due to his wife Joan's miscarriage. One member of Hunter's new, hand-picked team is Helen Marshall (Maxine Peake), his former adulterous lover. The two cases — massacre and serial killings — are linked by Officer Bob Craven (Sean Harris), who behaves in an openly hostile manner to the new team. Hunter correctly deduces that the Ripper inquiry is being side-tracked by the Wearside Jack tapes, and feels that the real Ripper has been interviewed and missed.
Hunter suspects that one of the Ripper's supposed victims, Clare Strachan, was not actually a Ripper victim. Hunter receives information on the murder from B.J., who is introduced through Reverend Laws (Peter Mullan). B.J. claims that Strachan was a prostitute working for Eric Hall, a now-dead WYC policeman. Hall's wife requests that Hunter meet her, and after visiting her house — where Reverend Laws is also present — she provides Hunter with proof of Hall's work as a pimp and pornographer, and that she gave Hall's documents to Jobson. Jobson claims to have lost the files. Meanwhile, the former affair between Hunter and Marshall threatens to reignite.
Hunter interrogates Inspectors Dickie Alderman and Jim Prentice, who lets slip that the Strachan murder was probably performed by Hall, covered-up to look like a Ripper murder. Hunter also visits the now debilitated Tommy Douglas who later phones him demanding that they meet at his house. However, Hunter arrives to find Douglas and his daughter killed. Hunter is seriously intimidated when he receives covertly taken photos of himself and Marshall in compromising positions.
Near the end of Hunter's Christmas holiday, his Manchester house is burned down. Hunter then learns that his superiors have taken him off the Ripper case due to unspecified allegations of disciplinary breaches. He nevertheless returns to West Yorkshire and to a confrontation with Jobson. Hunter tracks down B.J. and forces him to reveal that five masked policemen burst into the Karachi Club minutes after Eddie Dunford's revenge, killing all civilian survivors and finding Bob Craven and Tommy Douglas wounded by Eddie. Strachan and B.J., two of the waiters at the club, witnessed the whole scene while hiding behind the bar, and were spotted by Angus and Craven as they fled the premises. B.J. is, therefore, the only surviving witness of the Karachi Club massacre, which forces him to flee town. B.J. also implies that Craven was the murderer of Strachan.
Hunter returns to Millgarth Station, Leeds, to reveal this new information to Nolan, but it appears, amid great fanfare, that the Yorkshire Ripper has been captured and confesses. Nolan takes Hunter downstairs to the cells where Hunter enters to see Craven slouched back in a chair, shot through his head. He realises that Nolan was one of the five who took part in the Karachi Club shootings, but Nolan quickly shoots him dead. Alderman and Prentice plant the gun to make it look like Hunter and Craven shot each other. In a final scene, Joan Hunter is comforted by Reverend Laws at her husband's graveside.
Red Riding 1983 
In 1983, Detective Inspector Maurice Jobson is plagued by guilt over his reluctant participation in the corrupt activities within the WYC. It is revealed that it was he who tipped off Dunford about the arson in the Roma camp, in which Jobson took part under pressure by Molloy. It is also revealed that he knew about the innocence of Michael Myshkin (Daniel Mays), a mentally retarded man who was accused of the serial killings in 1974. Jobson is aware of a conspiracy within the WYC protecting high-profile figures, including Dawson, from public exposure. Jobson's pangs of conscience are brought upon by his investigation into the recent disappearance of a young girl named Hazel Atkins, and lead him to open previous cases. He also starts an intimate relationship with a medium (Saskia Reeves), who seems to be in possession of valuable information concerning the more recent crimes.
Meanwhile, John Piggott (Mark Addy), a solicitor and the son of a notorious WYC officer, decides to explore the Atkins case himself. His inquiries lead him to Leonard Cole (Gerard Kearns), the young man who found the swan-stitched victim in 1974 and who is now being framed for Atkins' disappearance. Cole is tortured and murdered by the police, his death disguised as a suicide. Using information given by Myshkin, Piggott finds a mine shaft hidden in a pigeon shed near Laws' home, where he discovers that a paedophile and child-murdering ring was run in West Yorkshire by Reverend Laws.
It is implied that only when children with known, stable local families were abducted was the criminal structure partially compromised — perhaps the main reason for the constables' indirect assistance in Dawson's demise. Laws counted on the complicity and even direct collaboration of high-ranking officials in the WYC. It is also revealed, through Piggott's imagination and flashbacks by other characters, that the clients of this ring included significant figures of society, among them businessmen such as Dawson and policemen such as Piggott's own father.
Finally, it is also revealed that B.J. was the first child abducted by this criminal enterprise, and perhaps the only one who survived. He ends up returning to Laws' home to enact revenge, but in the last moment finds himself unable to do so due to Laws' mind-numbing, domineering influence on him. Seconds before Laws is about to drill into B.J.'s head with an electrical drill, Jobson appears with a shotgun and shoots the reverend three times, killing him. He then opens the hidden entrance to the mine shaft just in time for Piggott to emerge from it with a still-living Hazel Atkins in his arms. B.J. flees southward by train, reflecting on his upbringing, his experiences, and his “escape” from the past of West Yorkshire. Thus three characters — Jobson, Piggott and B.J. — achieve some measure of redemption in the end.
The third episode of the trilogy aired on 19 March 2009 on Channel 4.
- Mark Addy – John Piggott (1983)
- Sean Bean – John Dawson (1974 & 1983)
- Cathryn Bradshaw – Marjorie Dawson (1974)
- Jim Carter – Harold Angus (1980 & 1983)
- Warren Clarke – Assistant Chief Constable Bill Molloy (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- Paddy Considine – Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter (1980)
- Shaun Dooley – Detective Inspector Dickie Alderman (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- Anthony Flanagan – Barry Gannon (1974)
- Julia Ford – Elizabeth Hall (1980)
- Kelly Freemantle – Clare Strachan
- Andrew Garfield – Eddie Dunford (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- Rebecca Hall – Paula Garland (1974)
- Sean Harris – Detective Superintendent Bob Craven (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- John Henshaw – Bill Hadley (1974 & 1983)
- Gerard Kearns – Leonard Cole (1974 & 1983)
- Eddie Marsan – Jack Whitehead (1974 & 1980)
- Daniel Mays – Michael Myshkin (1974 & 1983)
- Joseph Mawle – Peter Sutcliffe ("The Ripper") (1980)
- Tony Mooney – Tommy Douglas (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- David Morrissey – Detective Chief Superintendent Maurice Jobson (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- Peter Mullan – Rev. Martin Laws (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- Maxine Peake – Detective Helen Marshall (1980)
- Tony Pitts – Detective Chief Superintendent John Nolan (1980 & 1983)
- Mary Jo Randle – Eddie's Mum (1974)
- Saskia Reeves – Mandy Wymer (1983)
- Steven Robertson – Bob Fraser (1974 & 1983)
- Cara Seymour – Mary Cole (1974 & 1983)
- Lesley Sharp – Joan Hunter (1980)
- Robert Sheehan – BJ (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- Chris Walker – Jim Prentice (1974, 1980 & 1983)
- Darren Whitfield – Detective
- Michelle Dockery – Kathryn Taylor (1974 & 1983)
Deviations from the novels 
Aside from the major departure of omitting the second novel — Nineteen Seventy-Seven (2000) — in the sequence, the film adaptations deviate from the books in a number of respects.
|This section requires expansion. (July 2012)|
Historical basis 
The television trailers for all three Red Riding episodes bore the tagline "Based on True Events". Nevertheless, none of the characters — not excepting even the murder victims — bear the names of real people and only a few (see below) have obvious real-life models.
|This section requires expansion. (July 2012)|
The wrongful prosecution and imprisonment of the character Michael Myshkin is a clear parallel to the real life case of Stefan Kiszko, falsely accused of and convicted for the killing of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in 1975. He was later proved innocent.
The mission and subsequent official vilification of Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter in Red Riding 1980 are strongly reminiscent of the case of John Stalker, a real life Deputy Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police who headed an investigation into the shooting of suspected members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1982.
Awards and nominations 
Theatrical film adaptation 
Columbia Pictures has acquired the rights to adapt the novels and films into a theatrical film. The studio was negotiating with Ridley Scott in October 2009 to direct it, Rebecca Hall and Andrew Garfield might reprise their roles.
The trilogy was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the US by IFC Films on 5 February 2010.
- Kay, Jeremy (14 May 2009). "IFC Films acquires cult drama Red Riding". ScreenDaily.com (Emap Media).
- See the Complete 'Red Riding' Trilogy in New York
- Flood, Alison (22 October 2009). "British readers vote Harlan Coben their favourite crime writer". guardian.co.uk (Guardian News & Media). Retrieved 28 October 2009.
- Fleming, Michael (15 October 2009). "Columbia caught 'Red'-handed". Variety (Reed Business Information).
- Blu-ray and DVD Art – The Red Riding Trilogy
- Official website
- "Filming wraps on new Channel 4 drama serial "Red Riding"" (Press release). Channel 4.
- Northern Exposure, The Guardian, February 28, 2009
- Review, Leicester Mercury
- Review by Roger Ebert, March 10, 2010
- Red Riding Trilogy at Rotten Tomatoes
- Red Riding: 1974 at the Internet Movie Database
- Red Riding: 1980 at the Internet Movie Database
- Red Riding: 1983 at the Internet Movie Database
- Detailed plot synopses